Following federal guidance, Vermont is extending a "pause" on administering COVID-19 vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson through at least April 23.
The Vermont Department of Health announced the move Thursday. It comes after members of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel met on Wednesday and said they needed more time to review a possible link between the vaccine and an extremely rare type of blood clot.
“We know it may be difficult to hear about more uncertainty right now, but this is science at work,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said in a statement. “This extreme caution is being taken to make sure we have all the information needed as we move forward in our vaccination efforts safely.”
The pause has affected about 5,800 Vermonters who had appointments for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Anyone with an appointment to receive the vaccine through April 23 will need to reschedule, the state said. The health department said it is opening additional appointments for the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in an effort to minimize delays caused by the Johnson & Johnson pause. The department "expects everyone impacted by this pause will be able to get an appointment by the end of April."
Federal health officials on Tuesday urged states to suspend use of Johnson & Johnson doses so they could investigate six instances of life-threatening blood clots among women. Roughly 7 million doses of the vaccine have been administered nationally. The initial pause affected roughly 4,000 Vermonters who had upcoming appointments for the Johnson & Johnson shot. The number of appointments canceled by Thursday's extension was not immediately available.
The extended pause means that the one-dose shots will not be available when Vermont opens vaccine eligibility on Monday to people ages 16 to 29 — the last group waiting for a chance to schedule appointments. Most new COVID-19 infections are occurring within that age bracket, state data show.
Gov. Phil Scott has expressed optimism that a short delay in Johnson & Johnson shots shouldn't substantially affect the state's vaccination and reopening timeline. Half of Vermont's adult population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet again next week, which will likely guide the agency's next steps.
Those who registered through the health department should call the agency at 855-722-7878 to reschedule. CVS or Walgreens will provide instructions to people who signed up for appointments at one of their pharmacy locations, the state said.