COVID UPDATE: Use of Johnson and Johnson vaccine put on hold

The state Department of Health announced today it is temporarily stopping the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine statewide starting immediately over concerns about its safety.

In a statement, health department (DOH) officials said they’re following the nationwide guidance of the Federal Drug Administration and the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be put on hold until we receive further recommendations from our federal partners about how best to move forward. Safety is the highest priority when it comes to all COVID-19 vaccines,” officials said.

This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution based on the appearance of a rare but serious side-effect, including serious brain blood clots combined with low platelet counts in six patients, all women under 50. None of the women are Washington residents, according to DOH. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is reviewing the cases in the days and will recommend additional guidance in the days ahead.

About 149,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson (J & J) vaccine have been administered in Washington, out of more than 4 million doses total of the J & J, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

For those who got the vaccine more than a month ago, the risk of this complication is very low at this time, DOH said. 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 healthcare provider.

No definitive cause is known, but the FDA reported a probable cause is a rare immune response generated by an individual after receiving the vaccine.

DOH will monitor the situation related to J & J vaccine and update the public the pause is reviewed “and once it is lifted,” officials said.