Baylor halts J&J vaccination at urging of CDC, FDA

Baylor has stopped administering Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines after six women were diagnosed in the U.S. with blood clotting disorders within two weeks of getting the vaccine. Kristen DeHaven | Photo Editor

By Annaleise Parsons | Staff Writer

Baylor canceled COVID-19 vaccine appointments for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen brand of the shot due to urging from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The calls to halt distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine come after six women in the U.S. were diagnosed with a rare blood clotting disorder within six to thirteen days of getting vaccinated. One of the women has died.

Dr. Sharon Stern, the medical director for Baylor Health Services, wrote in an email that Baylor has only stopped distribution of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine this week. They will continue to order and distribute both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“We had planned to give 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week,” Stern said. “However, we will be able to give 300 second dose Pfizer and 300 first dose Pfizer….We will continue to order Moderna and Pfizer and hope to get many students, as well as faculty and staff members, vaccinated.”

Atlanta junior Lauren Gassel was originally scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine Wednesday when her appointment was canceled.

“I was kind of relieved honestly just because…I saw that they were halting the distribution, so okay, this is a sign that I don’t need to get it right now,” Gassal said.

About 7 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine have been administered according to the Food and Drug Administration. Over 500,000 doses have been administered in Texas. No cases of the blood clotting disorder have been reported in Texas, according to a statement released by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Stern said many vaccinations and medications have rare complications of blood clots. Women who have received a Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine in the past two weeks should watch for “severe headaches, chest pain, shortness of breath, leg pain and swelling and abdominal pain,” Stern wrote.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, released a joint statement asking for federal and state vaccine distribution for Johnson & Johnson to stop until they can investigate the blood clotting cases.

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution.” Schuchat and Marks said. “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.”

If the FDA and CDC confirm that the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is safe and effective, Stern said that Baylor will restart distribution of the vaccine as the vaccine has the advantage of only being one dose.

“I would like to encourage all of you to not allow this temporary pause on the Janssen vaccine to cause you to doubt the COVID vaccines,” Stern said. “They are very safe and effective, and millions of them have been given with no serious complications or side effects.”