Colorado Pauses Use Of Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine While CDC, FDA Investigate Possible Side Effects

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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.

UPDATE: Here's how the vaccine pause may impact Colorado.

Colorado will pause distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson while federal authorities investigate six cases in which people who received the vaccine developed blood clots.

In a release issued this morning the state Department of Public Health and Environment said the pause was “in an abundance of caution.”

“One of the reasons the FDA and CDC are recommending this pause is to ensure health care providers are aware of these potential but rare adverse events and can respond accordingly,” according to a state release. “The treatment for these types of blood clots is not the common treatment and thus time is needed to make sure healthcare providers know how to recognize and treat these rare occurrences.”

The state has been receiving fewer than 20,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine each week and was scheduled to only get 9,700 this week, so the pause is not expected to alter the state’s timeline for getting all eligible residents access to a vaccine.

Each of the cases of blood clots occurred in women 18 to 48 years old, and six to 13 days after inoculation. The state believes anyone who was inoculated with the J&J vaccine a month or more ago has no reason for concern, but anyone who received a shot of the single dose J&J vaccine in the past three weeks should watch for development of a “severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath.” If any of those occur, contact your healthcare provider.

 A mass vaccination site last week at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City was paused for the day after about a dozen people complained of dizziness or shortness of breath. No one had to be hospitalized and symptoms were treated with juice and rest, but the state decided after that not to use the vaccine at weekend events.

The vaccine has been in use on the state’s mobile vaccination buses, and those events have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Gov. Jared Polis is expected to provide more information at a 1 pm media briefing today.