Nacogdoches County will pause its use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after state and federal health officials recommended states temporarily stop distributing the vaccine after six women across the nation suffered a “rare and severe type of blood clot.”
None of the six happened in Texas, state health officials said. About 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in Texas, according to a statement by Texas Department of State Health Services. Around 3,000 of those were given in Nacgodoches County, said Nacogdoches Fire Chief Keith Kiplinger, who is in charge of logistics for local vaccine clinics.
“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare and are being further evaluated to ensure vaccine safety,” John Clingaman Jr., the Lufkin district coordinator for Texas Health and Human Services said in an email sent to government and health officials in the region.
No one in Nacogdoches County has reported any adverse side effects from the Johnson & Jonson vaccine, Kiplinger said.
“They really recommend that if you have a severe headache or extreme leg pain within a few weeks of having the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that you should go to your health care provider,” he said.
Treatment for these specific blood clots is different than what might typically be administered, Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital officials said.
Anyone having a severe reaction to the vaccine is encouraged to call 911. Kiplinger stressed that these reactions are “extremely rare.” Around 6.6 million doses have been given in the United States, meaning that the blood clots have a chance of less than one in a million.
“My only concern is the people who were already vaccine hesitant, it’s going to give them a reason not to do it,” he said.
Stephen F. Austin State University nursing students and paramedics were scheduled to give 300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Wednesday at the county expo center.
“In an abundance of caution, for the moment we are cancelling the administration of the J&J vaccine and will offer the Moderna vaccine at our scheduled shot clinic on Wednesday,” said Matthew Malloy, clinical coordinator for the local public shot clinics and quality manager at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital. “Anyone who wants to wait for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be rescheduled at a later date pending the CDC/FDA decision.”
Rescheduling began Tuesday, said Jessica Sowell, spokeswoman for the joint city and county emergency management office responding to the pandemic. Patients were contacted by phone and email.
“We’ll be able to accommodate everybody on that list with a Moderna vaccine if they want it,” Kiplinger said, noting that the county has given “more Moderna than anything by several fold.”
Local residents wanting to schedule a vaccine can call 936-305-8488, though hours for the call center vary daily. Online registration is available at tinyurl.com/vacnac.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to determine the next course of action, which will give state health officials more direction on how long the pause might last or other next steps, said Dr. David Lakey, vice chancellor for health affairs and a chief medical officer at the University of Texas System and a member of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel.
The biggest impact in Texas is likely to be on larger retail pharmacies, which were anticipating that about two-thirds of the supply being delivered this week would be Johnson & Johnson, Lakey said. Because the vaccine is more stable and more easily stored than those produced by Pfizer and Moderna, it was also the vaccine of choice for mobile vaccination efforts, including the Save Our Seniors program, which targeted seniors in their homes, he said.
All three mass vaccination sites run by the federal government in Texas announced early Tuesday that they will halt the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and, when possible, switch to the other two.
“I’d like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare. However COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority,” FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at a news conference. “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”
Texas vaccine efforts, like those in other states, were already stymied this week by a dip in shipments of the vaccine until a Baltimore production plant can be approved for distribution.
Texas had expected to get about half a million doses of that vaccine, but was allotted about 130,000 through state and federal programs, state officials said last week.
About 130 local providers and 11 mass vaccine hubs, including the three federal sites, were allocated Johnson & Johnson vaccines for this week, according to DSHS.
The Associated Press and the Texas Tribune contributed to this story.