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Michigan pauses use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, MSU student clinic pivots to Pfizer

MSU Student receiving the Johnson&Johnson vaccine at the MSU student-only vaccination clinic
Posted at 3:57 PM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 18:24:46-04

MSU CAMPUS — Michigan is following CDC guidelines and temporarily halting the use of the Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine while federal regulators investigate a series of reports of severe adverse reactions to the single-dose vaccine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this move on Tuesday after they identified six cases of severe blood clotting in individuals who received the vaccine, saying the recommendation stems from an “abundance of caution."

Johnson & Johnson vaccine
FILE - This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two (Johnson & Johnson via AP)

“The safety and health of Michiganders will always come first," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office said in a statement. "We will follow the FDA’s guidance to temporarily pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of an abundance of caution, and adapt our vaccine strategy going forward until a further review of the data can be conducted."

Suspending use of the Johnson & Johnson makes it "more important than ever for the federal government to implement a targeted strategy that allocates additional Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to hotspots like Michigan to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives," Whitmer's office said.

At least six women between the ages of 18 to 48 have reported a rare and severe form of blood clotting within six to 13 days of receiving their one-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Health providers across the country have administered over 6.8 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Dr. Peter Marks is the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research says although the cases are rare, the severity of some responses is cause for caution.

“Of the clots seen in the United States, one case was fatal and one patient is in critical condition,” Marks said in a media briefing Tuesday.

People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

“CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices...on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases,” according to a joint press release from the two agencies.

Whitmer said as recently as Friday that the one-dose vaccine was vital to the state’s vaccination efforts, particularly in getting younger Michiganders vaccinated as cases continue to skyrocket in the 18 to 29 age range.

The Michigan State University vaccination clinic opened Friday exclusively offering students the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but pivoted quickly on Tuesday.

MSU Student-Only COVID-19 vaccination clinic
Volunteers from the Ingham County Health Department and Michigan State University inside of the student-only COVID-19 vaccination facility in the MSU Pavilion.

“We worked quickly with our partners at the Ingham County Health Department to quickly transition from Johnson & Johnson to Pfizer vaccines, we were able to do that successfully before our 9 a.m. appointment,” university Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen said.

The university will continue to vaccinate students out of the in-person clinic at the MSU Pavilion with doses of the Pfizer vaccine until given further guidance from the health department. As for the hundreds of students who have already received their dose of Johnson & Johnson, Olsen says the university will be in contact.

“We'll be telling students what kind of symptoms to look for. But I think it's important to point out that this was six instances, and...almost 7 million individuals, so less than one person in every million doses,” Olsen said.

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