When Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine distribution was paused on Tuesday, April 13, the FDA and CDC spent 11 days reviewing the rare cases of blood clots it caused in women in the U.S. After careful review, both organizations have authorized continued use of the vaccine at federally run state sites. Shortly after the announcement was made, Florida's vaccine sites in Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa and Orlando began administering the vaccine again, beginning Sunday, April 25.
The pause began when six women in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 49 developed a rare blood clotting syndrome called thrombosis-thrombocytopenia shortly after receiving the vaccine. By this time, nearly seven million people had received the one-dose immunization. As of Friday, April 23, a total of 15 cases of the syndrome have been discovered, with symptom onset occurring six to 15 days after vaccination.
Despite these findings, the overall risk of this issue occurring is low, with 1.9 cases per million people. In an official statement on its website, the FDA determined that, "the vaccine's known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks."
Florida CVS and Walgreens locations will also begin administering the J&J vaccine this week. State hospitals will also consider giving it due to the shot's convenience (one dose as opposed to Pfizer and Moderna's two), especially as data shows that millions of Americans—nearly 8 percent of those who received a first dose—aren't showing up for their second doses. The vaccine also has a longer shelf life (it can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for months, compared to the others) and is not made with mRNA technology.
These benefits and risks can be discussed with your healthcare providers, who are advised to review the vaccine's fact sheet. This document has been revised to include information about the risk of the blood clotting syndrome, especially to women under the age of 50. Johnson & Johnson is still considered 66.3 percent effective at preventing Covid-19 and has high efficacy at preventing hospitalizations and death in people who do get sick.
Both the CDC and FDA will continue monitoring all Covid-19 vaccines for safety through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.