Kansas suspends Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution


April 14, 2021

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials announced Tuesday that the state is suspending distribution of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccines as federal health officials investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

"Just as important as getting vaccines into arms -- is making sure those vaccines are safe," Gov. Laura Kelly said in a news release.

The move came after the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday they were investigating unusual clots that occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. None of the cases were reported in the Kansas.

"It is a small number, but you cannot turn a blind eye to something as significant as that," Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said during a morning briefing with medical staff from the University of Kansas Health System.

Norman predicted the pause won't be a "huge setback" on the state's overall rate of shots. That's because less than 4% of the shots administered in Kansas have been from Johnson & Johnson, according to KDHE data.

He said that the state initially planned to use it more, but then last month Johnson & Johnson had to discard 15 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine because a batch did not met quality standards.

"For a variety of production and other reasons it never materialized or very little did," Norman said.

The state is recommending that vaccinators switch to Pfizer and Moderna and place their supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines into storage while federal officials investigate.

In the Wichita area, Sedgwick County health officials had planned to administer around 1,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson dose Tuesday and again on Thursday. They are switching vaccines but keeping clinics going, said Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne.

"I have been very pleasantly surprised that those people so far who have really been holding out for Johnson & Johnson just said, 'OK, I want to be vaccinated.' And there's been a couple people who have been hesitant, and we just talked to them about 'Let's just get one dose and go from there,'" Byrne said. "So it has been a positive response here at the clinic because people have really held out for Johnson & Johnson but are willing to get vaccinated because they want that coverage."

Sedgwick County health officer Dr. Garold Minns stressed that it was important to go ahead and get vaccinated to prevent severe illness and death from the virus.

"I want to emphasize that all we know is that at this point six cases have been reported," Minns said. "So the vaccine still appears to be very safe and it hasn't even been proved yet that these cases are due to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine."

The pause is a sign that the country's vaccine safety mechanisms are working as designed, said David Wild, vice president of performance improvement at the University of Kansas Health System, and Dana Hawkinson, the hospital's medical director of infection prevention and control.

"There are people up and awake 24 hours a day looking for these types of things to make sure that it is safe for the people receiving the vaccines in your community, in the country, in the world," Hawkinson said.


This story corrects the attribution of the final quote to Hawkinson, not Wild.


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