When the federal government began the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations in the United States, supply from companies Pfizer and Moderna was secured for more than 300 million Americans. Months later, the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved by the FDA for distribution. Promoted as a good alternative since it reduced confusion surrounding second-dose appointments, it was announced on April 2 that federally-supported vaccination sites, including Florida locations in Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami, were making the switch.
But on Tuesday, April 13, federal health officials called for a pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution. Rare occurrences of a blood clotting disorder were found in six U.S. women between the ages of 18 and 48, who received the vaccine. One of these women has died. The clotting issue, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), was found in combination with low levels of blood platelets.
Since Tuesday's announcement, New York, Connecticut, Nebraska, Ohio and several other states have paused distribution of the vaccine. CVS and Walgreens have, too, along with the U.S. military. Additionally, all federally run sites, including Florida's, after an order issued by Gov. DeSantis, have ceased use of the vaccine until it has been re-approved. As of Monday, April 12, more than 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
According to FDA acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, the pause is expected to "last only a matter of days." Scientists at the FDA and CDC are working together to determine the link between the vaccine and the rare blood clotting disorder. A meeting between the FDA and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will take place on Wednesday, April 14, to review the adverse effects; this will help the FDA determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective enough to continue authorization.
Locally, Moderna is still the primary vaccine offered in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Steve Huard, public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, says the county is aware of the FDA's recent announcement and is awaiting further information.
"Moderna supply will not be affected by this hold," says Huard. "The Department of Health Sarasota will still offer walk-up Covid-19 vaccinations daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and 10:30 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. on Thursdays."
Sarasota and Manatee citizens can still receive the Moderna vaccine at the two main county clinics, Sarasota Square Mall and Tom Bennett Park. Publix, CVS and Walgreens will also continue to administer Moderna at all available clinics in Sarasota, Manatee and across the state.