ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia health officials are pausing all vaccinations of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine following guidance from the federal government.
The Georgia Department of Public Health made the announcement early Tuesday, shortly after the federal officials said they are investigating rare but serious cases of blood clots in some people who received the vaccine.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they are investigating unusual clots in six women that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination.
The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
Georgia universities, health systems and others on Tuesday said plans to use the vaccine have also been put on hold as they await further guidance from the federal government.
One of Georgia's largest school districts — Atlanta Public Schools — canceled an upcoming mass vaccination event for teachers that was to have used the J&J vaccine. The school system said the April 21 event was being scrapped due to Tuesday's news, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Spencer Strobel, 33, had been periodically checking online for a few weeks for an open vaccine appointment but hadn’t had much success. With a new job starting next week and increasing pressure from his mother to get it done, he jumped at the chance when he saw a post on his neighborhood Facebook page saying that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be offered at the YMCA about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from his house in Atlanta.
“I wanted the Johnson & Johnson one because it was one shot and I wouldn’t have to deal with the second shot,” he said, adding that his sister had gotten that vaccine and had no problems.
He awoke on Tuesday to headlines saying the U.S. was pausing use of that vaccine and figured he wouldn’t be getting his shot after all. But then he got an email from the organizers of the vaccination event at the Y saying it was still on but that they’d be administering the Pfizer vaccine instead.
Despite his preference for the J&J vaccine, he decided to go ahead and get the Pfizer jab “to get it over with and get back to some type of normality.”
When he arrived in the Y parking lot to get his shot, he was told there would be a slight delay while they waited for the Pfizer vaccine to arrive because of the last-minute switch. But after a relatively short wait, he got his shot and left with an appointment for the second dose.
In southwest Georgia, the Phoebe Putney Health System said that it had recently received its first shipment of the J&J vaccine.
“We had planned to begin offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in limited circumstances soon; however, we will wait for further guidance from the CDC and FDA before deciding whether or when to do so,” Dr. Dianna Grant, the system's chief medical officer, said in a statement Tuesday.
Martin reported from Marietta, Georgia.