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Pausing use of J&J COVID-19 vaccine may have consequences in Washington

Washington state paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots occurring.

EVERETT, Wash — The statewide pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shut down the Angel of the Winds Arena vaccination site in downtown Everett - the only one in the county that offers that vaccine.

People arrived at the site Tuesday morning thinking they were going to get their vaccination, only to find the doors closed. 

The county is alerting people with appointments that the site has closed. 

“This is the first appointment I even thought about doing,” said Jomo Simpkins outside of the arena.

Washington state officials paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after reports of rare, but potentially dangerous blood clots had occurred in six women between the ages of 18 to 48. The blood clots occurred between six to 13 days after they were vaccinated. One of the women died.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said it is not aware that any of the patients in the U.S. who experienced blood clots were Washington residents.

“This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution based on the appearance of a rare but serious side effect including serious brain blood clots (CVST) combined with low platelet counts in six patients, all women under 50,” the DOH said. 

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine represents about 5% of doses administered in Snohomish County so far.

Though the chance of getting a blood clot from the shot based on what is known so far is less than one in 1 million – and that’s if it’s found that the shot was connected to the clotting – Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters is concerned that it could undermine confidence in the vaccine.

He understands the reason for the pause and suspects the pause is out of an "abundance of caution." But it may not be without consequence.  

“That’s not without risk either,” Spitters said. “Because it can impact individuals or community’s confidence in this product, or in the whole effort. So I am anxious to see it resolved quickly."

Around 149,000 doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in Washington, according to the DOH. The state has administered more than 4 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

A CDC committee 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.

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