Health Care

Vermont can resume J&J vaccinations

nurse receiving injection
Alex Low, the nursing supervisor at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, receives the Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 16, 2020. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

A federal vaccine advisory panel has voted to resume Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, paving the way for Vermont to begin allowing residents to receive the shot.

The CDC halted the use of Johnson & Johnson earlier this month after 15 people, of the millions of doses distributed nationwide, developed a rare blood clot complication about a week after receiving the shot. 

Gov. Phil Scott estimated that Vermont could resume Johnson & Johnson vaccinations as early as Tuesday.

The recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would add information to official documentation about the risk of blood clots in women 18 to 49 years old.

Women in that age group appear to be at higher risk of developing the blood clot complication, previously called thrombosis. The clots identified tend to affect the brain, an unusual place for blood clots that requires specialized treatment and has led to one death.

A presentation from the committee showed that the risk of contracting, being hospitalized for and dying of Covid-19 is higher than the risk of blood clots from Johnson & Johnson in the vast majority of the population. 

Dr. Sara Oliver, an expert with the CDC, said data based on the latest Covid case numbers, and the rate of blood clots among Johnson & Johnson recipients, showed the benefits of providing the shot far outweighed the risks.

She also presented the results of a survey of local and state-level vaccine administrators, who said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides unique capabilities for targeting marginalized communities because it only requires one dose.

Vermont is one state that wanted to take advantage of the one-dose vaccine to target certain populations: Planned vaccine clinics for those experiencing homelessness were delayed because of the Johnson & Johnson pause.

Scott estimated on Friday that the state currently has 1,000 doses of J&J in stock. The governor said he should learn how many more doses of the vaccine Vermont will receive on Tuesday, during the White House call with state governors.

During the period Johnson & Johnson was available in March and early April, it formed about 18% of doses distributed throughout the state.

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Erin Petenko

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