A top Maine public health official said Tuesday that the state is suspending use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of a “rare and severe” blot clot.
That comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised states in an early morning announcement to stop using the vaccine.
The agencies said vaccine safety is a “top priority” for the federal government, which is taking “all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously.”
Nirav Shah, the director for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said his agency was temporarily suspending use of the vaccine “out of an abundance of caution.” That pause will remain in effect until a federal scientific advisory committee has investigated the blood clot.
That committee will determine whether there is a direct link between the vaccine and the blood clots and an effective treatment for them, according to the joint CDC and FDA statement.
Six women between ages 18 and 48 in the U.S. developed a rare blood clot after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The symptoms surfaced between six and 13 days of vaccination, according to the U.S. government.
One woman has died, while another is in critical condition in a Nebraska hospital, according to The New York Times.
“To our knowledge, none of these cases occurred in Maine,” Shah said Tuesday.
So far in Maine, about 51,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered, or 5.7 percent of all doses, according to the Maine CDC. Nationally, 7 million people have received that vaccine.
In response to the pause, the mobile vaccine clinic in Oxford canceled appointments scheduled between 8:30 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. The clinic, which used the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, said it planned to switch to Moderna’s, which requires a follow-up booster.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine accounted for only 2,500 doses, or 7 percent, from the federal government’s allocation for Maine this week. But the vaccine is being used in the state’s new mobile vaccine clinic, which is aiming to boost vaccination rates in rural communities.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been seen as a key tool in the fight against the pandemic, because it requires only a single shot unlike most other vaccines, which require a second booster to be effective.
This is the second controversy to hit Johnson & Johnson over its vaccine this month. Contamination at a Baltimore factory owned by a company that partnered with Johnson & Johnson to ramp up production of the vaccine, Emergent BioSolutions, had affected as many as 15 million doses. Emergent’s Baltimore factory wasn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for vaccine manufacturing, and it has been repeatedly cited for poorly trained workers, cracked vials and mold.