Ingham County puts pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Six reports of rare blood clots trigger ‘abundance of caution’ from CDC

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COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson will no longer be administered in Ingham County — or anywhere else in Michigan — until health officials can better assess six reports (of more than 6.8 million doses nationwide) of women who developed blood clots after their vaccinations.

“Safety is our highest priority. It is important that the CDC and the FDA take time to investigate these rare but serious adverse events,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail. “The pause is a sign that our vaccine reporting and investigation systems are working to ensure safety. It is a sign that the CDC and the FDA are exercising extreme caution with the vaccines.”

The temporary recommendation is based on reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis that developed in six patients after their shots. 

State and local health officials are awaiting results of a federal investigation to determine their next steps, including whether the J&J vaccine will again be deemed safe for widespread use. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not affected by the pause and will be used for all scheduled vaccine appointments at the Health Department. No appointments were canceled. 

Health officials stressed that fewer than one in every million J&J vaccine recipients have reported the rare blood clot. All six reported cases are among women between the ages of 18 and 48. Still, all those who received the shot in the last three weeks should watch for symptoms such as severe headache, abdominal or leg pain and shortness of breath. If these symptoms develop, residents are asked to contact their health care provider and report online at vaers.hhs.gov. The CDC convenes this week to review the cases and assess their significance, health officials said.

Doses of the J&J vaccine in Ingham County will remain in storage until a determination is found. Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, also encouraged residents to continue making appointments for other brands of vaccines, which have not involved similar reactions.

Anyone age 16 and older is eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan. Visit michigan.gov/coronavirus to find a local vaccination location and schedule an appointment. 

To date, more than 5.3 million vaccines have been administered statewide. And while state officials have requested additional shots to combat recent caseloads, President Joe Biden’s administration has emphasized that it doesn’t plan to distribute shots based on case trends.

In related news…

Greater Lansing continued to top nationwide lists of metropolitan areas with the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission in the country this week. The New York Times included 14 Michigan cities — including Lansing, Jackson and Ionia — in its list of 15 cities with the worst outbreaks on Tuesday. Lansing, for the third week in a row, earned a spot in the Top 10 biggest hotspots.

Though more than 260,000 shots have been put in arms across Greater Lansing, Michigan’s seven-day average of new cases has doubled since March and now rests at among its highest points so far this year, with a statewide average positivity rate of about 15% on Tuesday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pointed to a recently increased spread in COVID-19 variants, as well as a lackadaisical attitude toward continued social distancing for the statewide case surge. Still, no additional state restrictions have been put in place. Instead, Whitmer has been trying a notably different tact — relying more on personal responsibility than on heavyhanded state mandates. 

“We’re in a different moment,” Whitmer said at a news conference late last week. “Everyone one of us has the ability and knowledge to do what it takes, and it’s on all of us to do it.” 

The 54B and 54A district courts in Lansing and East Lansing are closed to the public until further notice after shifting back to “phase one” of the State Court Administrative Office’s four-phase system for pandemic court operations. Courts will use remote technology as much as possible. All out-of-custody matters have been adjourned. Jury trials have been suspended.

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