ATLANTA — The state of Georgia has paused the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, officials announced Tuesday. It comes hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the recommendation.
The FDA and CDC are reviewing data involving six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot occurring 6-13 days after vaccination, the state said. Georgia Health Commissioner, Dr. Kathleen Toomey said no cases have been reported in Georgia. However, in the other states' cases, the clotting was serious and unusual because the patients' blood platelets were also low.
"And when you treat clots you use something that make the bleeding worse, like Heparin, but if you give the customary treatment you'll actually make them sicker," said Toomey.
Toomey said if there is a problem it would likely occur in the first three weeks after getting the shot and there are signs to watch for.
"Severe, severe headache, leg pain, shortness in breath, stomach pain," said Toomey.
Dr. Chris Rustin of DPH said people who have an appointment to get the J&J vaccine, will get another vaccine instead.
"We've asked the Department of Health not to cancel the appointments to continue to honor them, but instead of Johnson and Johnson it will be Moderna and Pfizer vaccine," said Rustin.
Rustin said it will be easy to pivot in Georgia since we have a large supply of Moderna and Pfizer on hand.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
"Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare," the FDA said in its statement. "This is important to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot."
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases and the FDA has also launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts.
“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a joint statement.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.