State pausing use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

By Jerry Nowicki 
Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield are pictured on March 24 when Gov. J.B. Pritzker received his COVID-19 vaccine. The Orr Building at the Fairgrounds are serving as a vaccination hub. (Capitol News Illinois file photo)

SPRINGFIELD – On advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois will pause distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.

The federal agencies made that recommendation Tuesday, April 13 after reporting rare and severe blood clots in six people who had taken the vaccine. The CDC and FDA are reviewing the data regarding those cases.

In a news release, the Illinois Department of Public Health advised that the move was “out of an abundance of caution.” The CDC and FDA said such complications with the vaccine “appear to be extremely rare.”

In a news release, the CDC and FDA said April 13 the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to “further review these cases and assess their potential significance.”

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” the CDC and FDA statement reads. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

The blood clots were reported in six women aged 18-48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination, according to the CDC. More than 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses have been administered across the country thus far.

Those who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact their health care provider, according to the CDC and FDA release.

The state also said in a news release that the “vast majority” of vaccines being administered in Illinois were developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech. Of the allocation for this week, only 17,000 doses were Johnson & Johnson. For next week, the state said it expects to receive 483,720 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine, of which 5,800 doses are expected to be Johnson & Johnson.

“IDPH has notified all Illinois COVID-19 providers throughout the state to discontinue use of the J&J vaccine at this time,” the department said in a news release. “In order to keep appointments, IDPH is strongly advising providers to use Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine on March 24 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

On Monday night, April 12, his office reported that a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19 during routine testing. The staff member was not in close contact with the governor, according to a statement from his spokesperson.

The staff member had recently received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and any close contacts are being instructed to quarantine, according to the spokesperson.