Riverside County officials suspended use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine Tuesday based on potentially lethal blood clotting identified by federal health officials.
According to the Riverside University Health System, 19,424 doses of the vaccine have been administered countywide, and there have been no reports of the “rare but severe” cerebral venous sinus thrombosis clot that prompted advisories Monday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
“There have only been six reported cases. It’s a very small number of individuals,” county Public Health Officer Dr. Geoffrey Leung told the Board of Supervisors. “But out of an abundance of caution, we will follow the FDA and CDC recommendations for a pause.”
Leung emphasized that “safety is our top priority,” but he expressed hope that the suspension of dispensation of the J&J product, which like the other SARS-Cov-2 vaccines is available under an FDA “emergency use authorization” and not a license, will last only “days and not weeks.”
Board Chair Karen Spiegel said she had received the J&J inoculation and wondered how long it might take for a blood clotting episode to occur.
According to Leung, head or leg pain that signal possible clotting, which can lead to strokes, would likely appear within a three-week period.
“If you have those symptoms, you need to let your doctor or provider know,” he said. “Beyond three weeks, you’re outside the window.”
He said the county was adhering to federal guidance because “it is critical the public have the confidence of the safety of vaccines that we offer.”
People with appointments at county-run vaccination sites using the J&J vaccine can obtain the Pfizer product instead, Leung said. Further information is available at www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine, or by calling the county’s 211 help line.
The CDC and FDA recommended states pause use of the single-dose J&J vaccine after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, according to a joint statement from the agencies. The women developed the clot six to 13 days after receiving a vaccine.
The CDC will convene a meeting of its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance.
“The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority,” according to a J&J statement.
“We have been working closely with medical experts and health authorities, and we strongly support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public,” the company said. “The CDC and FDA have made information available about proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”
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