Vermont will resume offering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine next week after a federal panel determined that the benefits of the one-and-done shot outweigh the potential risk of rare blood clots.
The Vermont Health Department announced that resumption in a press release Friday night, hours after a panel of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended its recommended pause on the vaccine.
“I appreciate the transparent effort made by the CDC and FDA in reviewing the facts during the pause," Gov. Phil Scott said in the press release. "This demonstrates the commitment we all have to ensuring vaccine safety. I encourage all Vermonters who are eligible to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, with whatever vaccine is available and most appropriate.”
Scott, who himself received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, estimated at a press conference on Friday that Vermont currently has fewer than 1,000 doses of it in stock. He said he expects to know how many more doses the state will receive moving forward following a White House call with governors early next week.
Vermonters 18 and older can begin signing up for Johnson & Johnson clinics through the state registration system starting 10 a.m. Saturday.
A targeted drive-through clinic will also be offered in the Northeast Kingdom, where vaccination rates have lagged behind the state as a whole. Four hundred doses will offered at the Barton Fairgrounds on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Vermont followed federal guidance and halted use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines on April 13 after an extremely rare blood-clotting disorder was identified in six women who had received the vaccine. The disorder often results in blood clots in the brain combined with a low level of platelets, which are blood cells that typically promote blood clotting.
Another nine women have been found to have the disorder since the pause was initiated. Three have died, while seven remain hospitalized, the New York Times reported.
The Food and Drug Administration updated fact sheets for the vaccine on Friday, writing that most of the women who developed the rare clots were between the ages of 18 and 49, and that the chance of this occurring in shot recipients was "remote." Seven cases per million doses administered to women in this age group have been identified to date. No cases have been reported in Vermont.
In Friday night's press release, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Vermont’s health care providers have been given information and guidance about the potential symptoms of the rare disorder and how to treat it.
The FDA and CDC recommend that people who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine contact their health care provider immediately.
Levine, who noted the disruption was "unfortunate," praised the federal government for taking time to further study the vaccine. “This is public health at work," he said in the release. "We have a responsibility to make sure the science is sound, so that people have confidence in the J&J, and all vaccines."