KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Amid breaking news Tuesday morning that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are recommending a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, many Kansas City-area vaccinators are following that guidance.
The direction from the two agencies comes after a few people who received the vaccine were reported to have a dangerous blood-clotting condition. All of those who reported the clotting suffered from thrombocytopenia — low levels of blood platelets — and had histories of blood clotting issues.
There have not been cases of clotting in the 121 million people who have received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, according to officials. However, the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed at Oxford University and isn't approved for use in the U.S., reported similar clotting issues.
The following agencies and jurisdictions have issued a halt to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
State of Kansas
Dr. Lee Norman said on the University of Kansas Health System daily call that he is asking all sites in Kansas to place a pause on the vaccine, including some clinics that were scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday.
“Just as important as getting vaccines into arms -- is making sure those vaccines are safe,” Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement. “While this appears to have affected six people in the nearly 7 million doses administered, out of an abundance of caution, Kansas will suspend Johnson & Johnson until the CDC and FDA clear it for use again. In the meantime, we anticipate our shipments of Pfizer and Moderna to continue and we will build on the one-third of Kansans who have already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Johnson County Department of Health and Environment
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment said it will follow that guidance and stop those vaccinations.
It will wait for further guidance from the KDHE.
Unified Government Public Health Department
The Unified Government Public Health Department will follow guidance from KDHE. They have paused Johnson & Johnson vaccinations.
Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health
Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health is following KDHE guidance and pausing any Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration.
“All of our clinics at the fairgrounds the next two weeks will administer Pfizer doses, as we have primarily at these events since late January. This will not affect vaccine availability there,” Director of Informatics, Sonia Jordan said in a release. “We have no planned Johnson & Johnson clinics at this time, so we are at a good place for pausing and waiting for additional guidance that CDC, FDA and KDHE can provide on this. As it is important to administer the vaccines right now, it is critical to ensure those vaccines are safe.”
Olathe Medical Center
The Olathe Medical Center had a Johnson & Johnson clinic scheduled for Saturday. A representative said the center is working to see if they have enough of another vaccine to go ahead with the clinic or if they need to postpone.
More information on that decision should be available later Tuesday.
State of Missouri
Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services also announced a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“In an abundance of caution and as per federal guidelines, we are pausing vaccination with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine until further notice in Missouri,” DHSS director Dr. Randall Williams said in a release. “We anticipate having more information shortly to make further decisions about overall vaccine distribution in light of this new development and will continue to update citizens who have been vaccinated with the J&J vaccine after the advisory committee meets at the federal level tomorrow.”
Plate County Health Department
The Platte County Health Department was administering the Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine and announced they will also place a put a hold on giving those doses.
Anyone who was scheduled to receive their vaccine with the PCHD on Tuesday is asked to reschedule through the Missouri Vaccine Navigator or by calling 1-877-435-8411.
Neighbor 2 Neighbor
The Neighbor 2 Neighbor event scheduled to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to people experiencing homelessness will continue Tuesday but will use the Moderna vaccine instead.
Advocates for the houseless hoped to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it requires just one dose, where Moderna requires the patients return within a certain time frame for a second dose.
The Kansas City VA Medical Center will also make a switch for their clinics scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, administering the Pfizer vaccine instead of Johnson & Johnson.
KCVA will wait for guidance to figure out the next steps after those two clinics.
Ball's Food — which owns and operates several Sun Fresh, Hen House and Price Chopper locations in the Kansas City area — also will pause Johnson & Johnson vaccinations for the time being.
Ball's Food sent an email to customers with appointments to receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday, alerting them of the pause.
"As of Tuesday morning, the CDC and FDA are recommending pausing the administration of this brand of COVID-19 vaccine while they investigate reports of a rare side effect," the email said. "Our pharmacies will not be administering any Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccination until that research is completed."
Ball's Food also offered customers a chance to shift appointments to a clinic offering either the Pfizer or Moderna two-shot regimens, subject to availability.
Advice from doctors
Dr. Dana Hawkinson with the University of Kansas Health System told 41 Action News that anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should just keep an eye out for symptoms.
The CDC and FDA recommendation comes because six of 6.8 million recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine developed a real blood clotting disorder that proved fatal in one case.
Dr. David Wild, also with the University of Kansas Health System, said leg pain, calf pain, shortness of breath and swelling of an extremity are typical symptoms of a blood clot.
Both doctors said this specific clot disorder involves blood clots within the veins at the base of the skull, which could result in headaches and a feeling of sinus pressure.
This story will be updated with other sites pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments. Check back for updates.