SANTA FE, N.M. (AP/KRQE) – Just six weeks after the first doses went out across New Mexico, the state Department of Health announced Tuesday it will pause further use of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in response to a federal recommendation. The move comes amid reports of “rare and severe” blood clots in six patients out of 6.8 million doses given across the United States.
“New Mexico – like the federal government – is acting out of an abundance of caution,” DOH Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a news release Tuesday. “As we learn more, we will share that information.”
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According to CDC, all six of the reports occurred within 6 to 13 days after vaccination with the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine. As of Tuesday, the New Mexico Department of Health said it had not heard of any reported cases in the state. Nearly 39,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in New Mexico since March 1.
NMDOH says people who have received the J&J vaccine who develop a severe headache, blurred vision, seizure, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider. In an interview with KRQE News 13 Tuesday, NMDOH Communications Director Matt Bieber shared information about what federal officials are saying about the data they’ve compiled thus far.
“I listened to a call this morning with the CDC commission and some other medical experts at the federal level, and their guidance was if you’ve been vaccinated more than a month ago with J&J the chances of anything happening is extremely rare,” Bieber said. “Really the chances of anything happening for anyone is extremely rare.”
In a statement issued Tuesday, Johnson and Johnson said, “there is no clear relationship between these rare events” and its vaccine. In the meantime, New Mexico DOH officials say any scheduled Johnson and Johnson vaccinations will either be paused or shifted to Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Since March 1, New Mexico has received at least 66,200 doses of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine. The state says nearly 39,000 doses have been given out, representing about 3% of the total 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses used in New Mexico. NMDOH Communications Director Matt Bieber called the pause a “hiccup” in the overall vaccine rollout.
“Thankfully, J&J hasn’t represented a huge portion of the state’s total allocations ever and so it won’t make much of a dent in our overall administration in the coming weeks,” Bieber said. “But it will have some impact and we’ll just have to see.”
While J&J vaccinations remain paused, the Department of Health says it will ultimately be up to providers as to if vaccination shots can be swapped for Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines, or if an appointment needs to be rescheduled. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of Pfizer and Moderna’s two-shot vaccines are continuing to roll into New Mexico.
New Mexico received more than 106,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines this week. The state is also continuing to administer about 115,000 to 120,000 doses per week. Even with J&J’s pause, New Mexico isn’t changing any criteria on who can get vaccinated, a process that’s now open to everyone age 16 and up.
“While this a bump in the road for sure (with J&J,) we’re still proceeding at pace,” Bieber said. “We’re still leading the nation in vaccine distribution, more than half the adult population has received at least a first shot, about 35% now, more than one-third (of adults) are fully vaccinated and we’re continuing.
KRQE News 13 asked the New Mexico Department of Health Tuesday if it’s shooting for a specific number or percentage of people vaccinated before declaring “herd immunity.” NMDOH says the goal remains a range of between the high-60’s and 80 percent of people getting vaccinated, including kids who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine.
According to numbers posted on the NM DOH’s vaccine dashboard website, about 42% (885,940 people) of New Mexico’s entire population of 2.1 million people has gotten at least one shot, so far.
Joint CDC and FDA Statement on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine:
“As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen ) vaccine have been administered in the U.S. CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.
CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. 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.
Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider. Health care providers are asked to report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.htmlexternal icon.”Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research