COVID Vaccine Clinics Will Continue After Mild Adverse Reactions At Centura’s Commerce City Site

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David Zalubowski/AP Photo
Boxes containing the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine sit next to vials in the pharmacy of National Jewish Hospital for distribution early Saturday, March 6, 2021, in east Denver. Volunteers worked with nurses and physicians from National Jewish to administer 2,500 vaccinations of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine that requires a single shot instead of two like the other vaccines.

Some mild adverse reactions at a COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic in Commerce City on Wednesday will not stop the push to get vaccine distributed as quickly as possible, according to Centura Health officials.

They gave a briefing for reporters at their Centennial headquarters. On Wednesday, 11 people out of 1,700 complained of dizziness or nausea at a Dick’s Sporting Goods Park vaccination site. Two people were taken to nearby hospitals and released the same day.

Centura paused vaccinating yesterday midway through the day after the patients complained of the symptoms, which are not unexpected, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“A couple of people had vomiting. Some people had low blood pressure or hypotension. And those were the reasons that we transported to the emergency department,” said Dr. Shauna Gulley, Centura's Chief Clinical Officer. “The two people that were transported to the emergency department were observed and released, same day.”

The clinics were ruled safe to continue after officials reviewed vaccine doses and the reactions.

About 600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were briefly pulled from distribution while the reactions are investigated by Centura and the state.

By Thursday evening, state health officials said they were confident there was nothing wrong with the vaccine and that clinics would go forward.

“After reviewing each patient’s symptoms, analyzing other vaccinations from the same lot of the vaccine and speaking with the CDC to confirm our findings, we are confident in saying that there is no reason for concern,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the state health department.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration checked the records on the two lots of Johnson & Johnson vaccine used Wednesday at the clinic and found no pattern of similar reactions anywhere else in the nation.

Centura says the clinics will continue, and they plan to administer Johnson & Johnson vaccines at weekend events at World Arena in Colorado Springs and the state fairgrounds in Pueblo.

There were a handful of other mild adverse reactions to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on previous days.

Centura was administering the one-shot vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third formulation to be delivered and distributed in the U.S., after those from Pfizer Biontech and Moderna.

A spokeswoman said it was the third day Centura had given the J&J vaccine at the mass vaccination site in Commerce City. She said on Monday, four people had adverse reactions, and on Tuesday, the number was eight.

Gulley said the mild reactions Wednesday showed up soon after the shot was given. People are asked to stay 15 to 30 minutes after vaccination to be observed.

“All of these occurrences were in that period of time. So I think the vaccination was likely safe and effective for everyone who received it successfully,” Gulley said.

Centura said the number of patients who complained of the side effects was 0.62 percent of those receiving the vaccine Wednesday.

Centura medical staff were alerted about the first adverse event at about 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“Over the ensuing few hours, there were additional events that came forward, and before three o'clock, we had chosen to pause,” Gulley said.

Other vaccinations were rescheduled, and so far, no one seems to be canceling appointments because of the incident.

After closing early, 640 people were unable to get their shots. 

“We will be vaccinating those individuals. We have rescheduled them for Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods (Park) where we will resume vaccinations with the Pfizer vaccine,” said Peter D. Banko, Centura president and CEO. “The science shows that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”

Banko said news of Wednesday’s didn’t seem to dampen demand for the shots.

“We're not seeing any cancellations of any vaccines as a result of it,” he said, including at the mass vaccination site, local clinics or hospitals in Centura’s system.

The side effects were “consistent with what can be expected,” said Scott Bookman, Colorado’s COVID-19 Incident Commander in a statement Wednesday.

“Getting a vaccine is far safer than getting severely sick with COVID-19.”