SPOKANE, Wash. — After the United States recommended pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, health officials in Washington and Idaho are following suit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they are looking into six cases of very rare, but potentially dangerous, blood clots that occurred in women ages 18 to 48 several days after they received the single-dose vaccination. One of the six died and another is in critical condition. All of the cases remain under investigation.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced it was pausing the use of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine statewide effectively. The DOH said the use of the J&J vaccine will be put on hold until the state receives further recommendations from federal partners on how to move forward.
Idaho's public health agency made its own announcement recommending that all providers of the J&J vaccine pause administration and follow CDC guidelines. All J&J vaccine clinics run by the Panhandle Health District (PHD) in North Idaho will also be paused and distribution of the vaccine to providers will be put on hold until further guidance is provided, PHD spokesperson Katherine Hoyer said in a press release.
PHD has received 7,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine thus far and has distributed 4,425 doses to enrolled vaccine providers, including 250 doses to PHD clinics, Hoyer said. All enrolled providers have been notified of the CDC and FDA guidance, she added.
"What we're hoping is that this is a brief pause and that the CDC can get to the bottom of this," Hoyer said in an interview with KREM 2's Morgan Trau. "So the FDA can review the evidence and really figure out what's happening here."
She added that once the research comes back, there may be steps PHD can take to prevent blood clotting. She is hopeful the CDC will figure out why this is happening to certain people, so the health district can recommend a different vaccine for those individuals.
The first mass vaccine clinic using J&J was scheduled for April 22 in Kootenai County, but is now on pause, she added. She said they are reaching out to patients to reschedule for other clinics.
Kelli Hawkins, a spokesperson for the Spokane Regional Health District, said the agency has administered fewer than 400 doses of the J&J vaccine. The majority of COVID-19 vaccines coming into Spokane County are the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech brands, allowing most vaccination efforts by providers to continue, SRHD said in a press release.
If a patient had an appointment scheduled for J&J and haven't heard from the health district, your appointment stands and the vaccine will be Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, Hawkins told KREM 2's Morgan Trau.
Here's what people should know if they scheduled a J&J vaccine appointment at locations in Spokane or North Idaho.
Pfizer vaccine appointments available in North Idaho
PHD has appointments available for Pfizer vaccine clinics in Kootenai, Bonner, Benewah, Boundary and Shoshone counties. Appointments can be booked online.
North Idaho's first mass vaccine clinic using the J&J vaccine that was scheduled for Thursday, April 22 in Kootenai County has since been put on pause.
PHD, Northwest Specialty Hospital and Medicine Man in Boundary County are among the providers in North Idaho that received the J&J vaccine, according to Hoyer. PHD has plenty of Pfizer and Moderna doses that enrolled providers can receive, she said.
A spokesperson for Rite Aid wrote in a statement to KREM that COVID-19 vaccines scheduled for Tuesday, April 13 and Wednesday, April 14 have been canceled. Those who booked an appointment will receive communication instructing them on how to reschedule their appointment for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Jefferey Temple, a spokesperson for Fred Meyer, said Fred Meyer will pause administering of the J&J vaccine and continue administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
When available, patients scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine will be provided either the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccine. If the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are not available, Kroger will work with patients to reschedule their appointment.
Fred Meyer is sending an email and calling all patients with a J&J vaccine appointment to honor it with a different vaccine manufacturer or reschedule them as needed.
Lauren Willis, a spokesperson for Walmart, said those with appointments will receive a different vaccine if it is available. If that's not the case, Walmart will cancel the person's appointment and rebook it for a later date once supply allows.