All six New England states on Tuesday announced a pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after U.S. health officials announced they would immediately stop administering doses at federal sites.
Officials in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine said they had recommended that vaccinators that have made Johnson & Johnson appointments not administer those doses.
The moves came after the Food and Drug Administration earlier said the U.S. government would immediately stop using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at federal vaccination sites while experts review multiple adverse reactions to the shot.
A spokesperson for the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center said the move was being taken out of "an abundance of caution" and that none of the six cases under investigation were connected to the Bay State.
"Individuals who have received a J&J vaccine should contact their physician if they have concerns,” the spokesperson said.
In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu announced that the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused consistent with the federal government's recommendation.
“This news will not slow down New Hampshire,” Sununu said. “While the federal government has directed a brief pause in the J&J vaccine, the state is already working with our partners to ensure that they have an alternative supply of Pfizer or Moderna to help continue their efforts today.”
He said no state managed fixed sites were scheduled to hold Johnson & Johnson clinics on Tuesday, but some regional public health networks were scheduled to provide the vaccine at clinics and to homebound residents. Walmart locations had also planned to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday. Sununu said the state is working to provide them with an alternative supply of Pfizer or Moderna so their efforts will not be slowed.
In Vermont, officials said they were suspending the vaccine “out of an abundance of caution.”
In a tweet, Gov. Phil Scott said the state is suspending Tuesday’s Johnson and Johnson clinics and officials would be reaching out to people who had appointments so they can be rescheduled.
Rhode Island health officials also announced that they are pausing administration of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. No Johnson & Johnson appointments had been scheduled for release on Tuesday.
Dr. Nirav Shah, the head of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Maine's pause would remain effect until federal health officials have "reviewed the safety data around this vaccine."
The Connecticut Department of Public Health said that although these side effects are extremely rare, the FDA and CDC recommend that people who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.
Vermont has yet to make a similar announcement, but Gov. Phil Scott is scheduled to hold a press conference at 12 p.m.
Six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed a rare blood clotting disorder and one died, the New York Times reported. The decision will only affect federally run sites, but states are expected to follow suit.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. as of Monday, according to the FDA. State data show that 181,034 people in Massachusetts had received the J&J vaccine as of Monday.
"Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare," the FDA said, advising that health care providers be aware that a unique treatment is required for the specific type of clot reported. "COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously."
The FDA held a press conference Tuesday morning, and the CDC plans to convene its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to review the cases.
Ashish Kumar Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said the move was difficult but necessary.
Gov. Charlie Baker often talks about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a game-changer for the state's vaccine distribution strategy, describing the single-dose shot as a way to accelerate vaccination speed and capacity.
The CDC and FDA said in a statement that people who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.