April 13, 2021

Feds, state pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration

The state of New Mexico paused its distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports of possibly related, very rare blood clots.

The state made the announcement on Tuesday after recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Food and Drug Administration citing reports of six “rare and severe” blood clots out of the 6.8 million doses of the vaccine nationwide, a rate of less than one in a million.

“New Mexico – like the federal government – is acting out of an abundance of caution,” New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “As we learn more, we will share that information.” 

The DOH Twitter account noted that the cases represent a tiny fraction of the Johnson & Johnson doses.

“This move shows that the federal oversight process of vaccine safety and effectiveness is working,” according to DOH. “All steps are being taken to protect Americans.”

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were not impacted and the state will shift those who had scheduled Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments to Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which have already made up the bulk of the vaccines distributed in New Mexico and nationwide.

According to the CDC and FDA, those who develop severe headaches, blurred vision, seizures, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should inform their health care provider.

In a press conference on Tuesday, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said the pause will allow the federal government “to further investigate these cases” which he noted were “rather rare.”

“We are ruled by the science and not any other consideration,” Fauci said.

New Mexico has led the nation in the rate of those who have received COVID-19 vaccinations, with 52.7 percent of the state’s 16 and older population receiving at least one dose and 34.8 percent of the same population being fully vaccinated, as of the state DOH’s Monday update.

As of Monday’s update from the CDC, providers and states had administered nearly 98 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, nearly 85 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and a little more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines each require a second booster shot after the first, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one shot.