City of Memphis, Mid-South states to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution after recommendation

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WASHINGTON — The city of Memphis and the Mid-South states said they will pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after U.S. health officials recommended the distribution be put on hold while they investigate what appears to be a rare side effect.

“The Tennessee Department of Health is acting upon recent guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Our vaccine supply continues to surpass demand and we do not anticipate this shift will impact our efforts to vaccinate as many Tennesseans as possible. We continue to monitor the situation closely,” said the Tennessee Department of Health.

The announcement follows similiar responses from the states of Mississippi and Arkansas and the city of Memphis, who said they will also continue their vaccination efforts but without the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Vaccination operations will move forward as planned today and the remainder of the week at all public and community based PODs,” said Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen. “The City of Memphis will honor all appointments and offer Pfizer vaccine at any site that was scheduled for J&J due to the CDC recommendation to pause administration of the J&J vaccine.”

During the Memphis/Covid-19 Joint Task Force meeting, McGowen added that only two operations in the city were affected by the announcement on Tuesday. He said he is not aware of any adverse side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Memphis, and doesn’t know how long the pause will continue.

All of this comes after the CDC and FDA released a joint statement saying they are recommending the pause after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 reported a rare, but severe type of blood clot after getting the vaccine. The symptoms presented themselves about a week after the vaccination.

To date, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been distributed in the United States.

Health officials will be meeting Wednesday to discuss the developments.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” the statement said.

These reactions appear to be “extremely rare,” health officials said.

If you remember it actually took a bit longer for the J&J vaccine to get here compared to other parts of the country.

The city of Memphis’ Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen who recently took over vaccine distribution estimates several thousand Johnson and Johnson vaccinations have been given out in our area. 

“To our knowledge no one here in our local community has experienced any adverse effects from the J&J, no one at our community-based pods, homebound or homeless residents,” McGowen said.

Currently, they have 17,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine on hand.

“And we have those segregated and set aside with labels that say, ‘do not use,” said McGowen.

Those who might see this news about the J&J vaccine and might be hesitant to take any vaccine. Health Department officials said do not let that prevent you from becoming vaccinated.

“Do not let this deter them or make them fearful of the vaccine. Keep in mind the whole purpose of the vaccine and the main reason why you want to get vaccinated is to prevent severe illness and death,” Dr. Bruce Randolph, of the Shelby Co. Health Department, said.

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