Acting Commissioner of Public Health Deidre Gifford (CTNewsjunkie photo)
Acting Commissioner of Public Health Deidre Gifford (CTNewsjunkie photo)

Connecticut public health officials advised vaccine providers Saturday to resume use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot after a federal review concluded its benefits outweighed the risk of a rare blood clotting condition.

The guidance followed a Friday decision by the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ending an 11-day “pause” on administering the one-shot J&J formula. The federal agencies had shelved the vaccine while they reviewed reports of a rare and severe blood clotting condition in a handful of women who had taken the shot. 

In a joint statement Friday, the agencies said the review turned up 15 cases of the dangerous cerebral blood clotting condition, which combined with low blood platelets, requires unique treatment. The J&J shot had been administered to more than 6.8 million Americans prior to its suspension. The FDA and CDC concluded its benefits outweighed its risks.

In a Saturday press release, Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Public Health Department, said the review should give people confidence that public health officials were committed to ensuring COVID-19 vaccines meet safety standards. 

“The CDC has determined that the known and potential benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the known and potential risks. That can be clearly seen here in Connecticut where our case and hospitalization rates and COVID deaths are declining as our vaccinations increase. It is clear that these vaccines are an effective tool in the fight against COVID-19, and we continue to urge all Connecticut residents over the age of 16 to get vaccinated when they can,” Gifford said.

Connecticut providers will be making revised fact sheets available to patients containing updated information about the risks and benefits of the J&J vaccine, Gifford said. 

The pause, in addition to an earlier production slow-down, had forced Connecticut officials to shift plans for their vaccination program. Providers had been issuing the J&J shot through its fleet of van-based mobile vaccination clinics. The one-shot formula eased the logistics of walk-up vaccinations. With the J&J shot unavailable, the vans switched to administering the Pfizer and Moderna formulas. Both shots necessitated the scheduling of follow-up doses. 

Saturday’s announcement seems likely to increase supply of the vaccine doses as Connecticut providers see demand begin to lag. On Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont reported that supply had eclipsed demand and vaccination appointments were readily available around the state. 

Gifford, who personally received the J&J vaccine, urged residents to take advantage of that opportunity. 

“We have vaccine providers throughout the state with open appointments ready to vaccinate anyone who wants a shot and makes the choice to take one more step toward a return to normalcy,” she said.