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Connecticut clinics switch COVID-19 vaccines after federal recommendation pausing J&J shots

The FDA and the CDC announced Tuesday that they are investigating reports of blood clots in six women that occurred six to 13 days after injection.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Vaccine clinics across Connecticut are quickly pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after federal health officials are recommending the move.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced Tuesday that they are investigating reports of blood clots in six women that occurred six to 13 days after the single-dose vaccination.

"The clots were observed in the sinuses of the brain along with reduced platelet counts — making the usual treatment for blood clots, the blood thinner heparin, potentially 'dangerous,'" they said in a joint statement

The Connecticut DPH issued a statement saying although these events are rare, and none have occurred in Connecticut, they also recommend that COVID vaccine providers pause the administration of the J&J vaccine for the time being while the FDA and CDC complete their review. 

"DPH has informed vaccine providers that were planning to hold clinics using J&J today and in the coming days to delay these clinics or offer an alternative vaccine if they have alternative vaccines available," officials continued. "DPH will work with providers to minimize the disruptions from this announcement in the near-term to the extent possible, but we anticipate that some cancellations will occur."

During a news conference, Gov. Ned Lamont and health officials said they had met with the White House COVID Task Force regarding the vaccine. 

He said none of the rare complications seem to originate from Connecticut. 

"What we are seeing is many of our providers successfully rescheduling those appointments to offer Pfizer or Moderna vaccines," said Josh Geballe, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services and the state’s chief operating officer.

"I anticipate there will be additional forthcoming from them," said Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health when asked about any expected updates regarding the vaccines from the FDA and CDC. They are expected to meet again sometime this week. 

In the last month, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contributed to 40% of Connecticut's vaccinations, Geballe said. However, officials said they aren't concerned the "pause" will affect vaccinations in the state. 

"We still have robust inventory supply of Pfizer and Moderna. We have the levers to mitigate the impact here and move Pfizer and Moderna around to fill the appointments," said Geballe.

Earlier Tuesday, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced that the city's Department of Public Health will discontinue administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following recent news reports of possible blood clots.

"Safety and confidence in the vaccine are paramount. Unless, or until we are 100% confident in the J&J vaccine, we will pause its use," Ganim said in a statement.

According to the mayor, Bridgeport will be working closely with the state and health officials for further advisement while Bridgeport’s DPH Clinics continue to administer the Moderna vaccine.

In Vernon, clinics were launched to offer COVID-19 vaccination to all people who live or work in Connecticut. 

The town said Tuesday they will switch to the Moderna vaccine at the clinic being held at the Hockanum Valley Community Council.

"We are of course paying close attention to and following all CDC/FDA guidance," officials told FOX61 News.

The City of New Haven also announced in partnership with Griffin Hospital that they will postpone the scheduled mobile clinic on Columbus Avenue on Tuesday.

Officials say the city will continue vaccinations later this week with the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

“In an abundance of caution, we are pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine indefinitely,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said. “Until we have further clearance from the CDC and authorization from the State regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the City will be using the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines at all COVID-19 clinics in New Haven.”

Hartford HealthCare also said it will halt the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In a statement, it said HHC is not currently offering J&J vaccines at any clinics and will only be offering Moderna and Pfizer.

“We have adjusted our vaccine distribution in every one of our vaccine clinics to provide only Pfizer and Moderna products,” said Dr. James Cardon, Hartford HealthCare’s Chief Clinical Integration Officer. “As always, safety is our first priority and we immediately followed the guidance of federal health agencies while the health concerns with J&J are being thoroughly investigated.”

As of Tuesday morning, Hartford HealthCare says they have provided 18,857 vaccinations using J&J; 236,370 doses (combined first and second) of Pfizer, and 75,971 combined doses of Moderna.

For the latest information on the J&J single-dose vaccine, click here.

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