The Johnson and Johnson vaccine that recently joined the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the battle against COVID-19 has been temporarily suspended by the FDA while health officials conduct an investigation into the safety of the drug.
An email sent out earlier this week by West Virginia epidemiologist Shannon McBee to all the state’s health departments stated that both the FDA and the CDC recommended a pause in the vaccine’s usage.
Health officials said the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was being embraced by many people due to it requiring only one dose, ostensibly resulted in an elevated incidence of blood clots in six people who had received it.
According to a joint statement released by the FDA and the CDC on Tuesday, April 13, the type of blood clot identified is known as a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), and “was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia).”
The six confirmed cases occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48, with symptoms having occurred six to 13 days after the vaccination was administered, according to the joint statement.
The statement additionally pointed out that there had been only these six cases out of the approximately 7 million doses of the vaccine that have been administered throughout the country to date.
Health officials said the risk for anyone developing blood clots was minimal if a month or longer had elapsed since the time of their vaccination.
Mingo County Health Department Administrator Keith Blankenship said the suspension of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine did not affect the MCHD’s vaccination efforts because to date the health agency has not been issued any dosages and has not administered any.
He said health officials are recommending that anyone who did receive the vaccine at a doctor’s office or pharmacy, etc., locally or elsewhere, within the last month and should begin experiencing a persistent severe headache, or abdominal or leg pain that doesn’t go away, or increased shortness of breath, should contact their medical provider right away.
Blankenship said anyone wanting more information on the suspension of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, both national and state health officials are referring the public to the FDA’s website at www.fda.gov.
As for Mingo County’s continued vaccination efforts using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Blankenship said the clinics for these continue to be scheduled each week throughout the county to meet the demand of its residents.
However, due to a significant drop-off in demand recently evidenced by the smaller numbers of people turning out to receive one of the two vaccines, Blankenship said the coalition would likely be scaling down from a few large vaccination events each week to instead holding an increased number of smaller clinics in more communities.
As with the larger events, Blankenship said the dates and locations of the smaller clinics will continue to be posted on the health department’s website and Facebook page as they are determined and scheduled each week.
“The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are still going to be available for anyone who wants them, but there’s just not that many people turning out at the bigger events to warrant having them at this point,” he said. “That’s why we think having a few more smaller events in more communities might be the better way to get more people vaccinated.”
Blankenship said the county remains relatively steady with its infection and positivity rate percentages, but added the public needs to remain vigilant for those rates to remain stable or possibly drop even lower.
“We keep saying it, but it’s no less important this week than it was last week,” he said. “Get vaccinated if you haven’t already, keep wearing protective face coverings, continue social distancing, and continue to get tested.”
Those sites and testing hours remain as follows:
• Hurley Drug Company in Williamson — Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Williamson Health and Wellness Center in Williamson — Sundays at different locations in the county such as Parsley Bottom Freewill Baptist Church at Lenore and Little Dove Baptist Church at Belo; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the downtown Williamson location.
• Kermit Town Hall parking lot/Kermit VFD building — Tuesdays, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• Larry Joe Harless Community Center in Gilbert — Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Delbarton Town Hall — Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.