MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Health announced on Saturday will resume use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. The decision was made following the announcement late Friday by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it has studied and confirmed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is recommended for people 18 years of age and older, and that the pause on its use since April 13 can be lifted.
“We are glad to have this supply of vaccine available again to protect Vermonters from the COVID-19 virus,” said Gov. Phil Scott in a statement late Friday. “I appreciate the transparent effort made by the CDC and FDA in reviewing the facts during the pause. This demonstrates the commitment we all have to ensuring vaccine safety. I encourage all Vermonters who are eligible to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, with whatever vaccine is available and most appropriate.”
The CDC announced the pause after reports of a small number of people experiencing adverse reactions involving a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). This type of blood clot is found in the blood vessels that drain blood from the brain and is combined with low platelets. Platelets help blood clot and stop bleeding. The problems were found up to two weeks after vaccination. There have been no reported cases of these side effects in Vermont.
Vermont joined most other states in pausing use of the vaccine on the recommendation of the CDC. Federal health officials announced the temporary halt to allow the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices time to review additional data about reported side effects. Nearly 8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S.
During a press conference Friday, Scott said that despite the pause in use of the vaccine, the state is still on track to have 60% of Vermonters vaccinated with at least one dose in time for stage two of the state’s reopening plan on May 1.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that while the disruption was unfortunate, from a public health perspective the actions taken to pause and study were completely appropriate.
“This is public health at work. We have a responsibility to make sure the science is sound, so that people have confidence in the J & J, and all vaccines,” said Levine.
Levine said that Vermont’s health care providers have been given information and guidance about the potential blood clotting symptoms and appropriate medical treatment. Updated clinician guidance will continue to be provided.
Although the side effects of concern are extremely rare, the FDA and CDC recommend that people who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should immediately contact their health care provider.
To register for an appointment or change one you already have, please visit healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine, or call 855-722-7878 if you need assistance. Certain participating pharmacy partners, including CVS and Walgreens, are making plans to also offer Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People can contact those pharmacies directly.
In addition, a drive-through clinic in the Northeast Kingdom offering 400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be held at the Barton Fairgrounds on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments can be scheduled through the state registration system at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine.