Arkansas is pausing the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for now.
This pause comes after both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for a pause in the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “out of an abundance of caution.” CDC principal deputy directory Dr. Ann Schuchat and FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation director Dr. Peter Marks released a statement, saying that there have been six cases of a “rare and severe type of blood clot” in individuals that have taken the J&J vaccine.
As a result, the agencies are mounting an investigation and reviewing the data surrounding the cases. The CDC is assembling an Advisor Committee on Immunization Practices meeting on Wednesday to review the cases, with the FDA expected to review that analysis.
Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Dr. Jose Romero told reporters on Tuesday that all of the cases occurred in females, ranging in age from 18 to 48. The symptoms occurred within the first two weeks of the vaccine’s administration.
According to Schuchat and Marks, the “adverse events appear to be extremely rare.” The CDC and FDA reported that more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered as of Monday, April 12.
During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that the state of Arkansas would respect the CDC and FDA’s request for a “short pause” in the J&J vaccine distribution. He told reporters that this delay was not expected to impact the state’s vaccination efforts.
“We will continue our vaccine program uninterrupted. It continues at a rapid pace, and no one should delay getting a vaccination because of a pause on one part of the vaccination,” he said. “We have the supply on hand in Arkansas to meet the demand needs of our state. No one should slow down and say, ‘Well, because of this, I’m going to wait.’ Don’t wait. Get the vaccine now. It is critically important.”
According to Hutchinson, there are 245,000 Pfizer doses and 178,00 Moderna doses in the state’s vaccine supply. There are only 63,000 doses of the J&J vaccine. Of these vaccines, 20 percent are reserved for second doses, while another 20 percent are reserved for planned events.
Hutchinson said that both he and Romero had confidence in the J&J vaccine, and that the pause was aimed at ensuring proper treatment of any adverse reactions the vaccine might cause. However, clinics offering the J&J vaccine will be cancelled, while those offering the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will not.
As of Wednesday, Arkansas had received 2,038,800 vaccine doses and administered 1,427,096 doses. There are 356,787 partially immunized individuals in Arkansas and 560,168 individuals fully immunized.