Johnson & Johnson vaccine. ( pcruciatti via Shutterstock)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine. ( pcruciatti via Shutterstock)

Connecticut’s Public Health Department asked providers to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday to comply with new federal recommendations following reports of six cases in which women developed a rare blood clot following the shot.

In a Tuesday press release, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control said the clotting condition was serious but rare. The one-shot J&J dose had, as of Monday, been administered to 6.8 million residents across the country and around 100,000 people in Connecticut. The blood clot occurred in six women between 18 and 48 years old. 

None of the six cases occurred in Connecticut, according to the state Public Health Department.

Both federal agencies planned to review the cases and the CDC scheduled an advisory panel meeting Wednesday to assess their significance.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a joint statement from the FDA and CDC.

Connecticut and states around the country have recently been scaling down use of the J&J vaccine as a result of a production error that has stifled supply of the one-shot formula. But the sudden pause will have an impact on already-scheduled appointments and clinics. 

“DPH has informed vaccine providers that were planning to hold clinics using J&J today and in the coming days to delay these clinics or offer an alternative vaccine if they have alternative vaccines available. DPH will work with providers to minimize the disruptions from this  announcement in the near-term to the extent possible, but we anticipate that some cancellations will occur,” a spokesperson for the department wrote in a Tuesday morning press release. 

State officials said Monday the vast majority of the J&J shots were being used to stock mobile clinics based out of minivans, which were designed to reach residents who had difficulties accessing more traditional vaccination sites.

Although they had planned to continue stocking the vans with the dwindling supply of the one-shot formula for as long as possible, public health officials had already been considering alternatives. 

“The contingency plans that we’re working on have to do with them starting to do mRNA vaccines, so doing the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, which obviously adds complexity to coordinate that follow up– that second dose appointment. But our providers are working on how those plans will evolve,” Josh Geballe, state chief operating officer said at a Monday press conference. 

On Tuesday, the vaccine vans which had been administering the J&J shot suspended their clinics. Another mobile unit run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was operating in New Britain, stopped to rework its schedule with plans to offer Pfizer or Moderna vaccines when it resumes. 

Geballe said the state had planned on about 21,000 doses of the J&J shot this week. That’s about 12% of Connecticut’s total vaccine supply for the week. However, the allocation of J&J was expected to drop sharply in the coming weeks. 

According to the health department, no Connecticut resident had reported serious side effects after taking the J&J vaccine. But the department press release advised residents to seek medical attention if they did not feel well. 

“Although these side effects are extremely rare, the FDA and CDC recommend that people who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider,” the press release said.