Arizona follows feds, pauses J&J vaccine due to clot reports

Arizona health officials urged a halt on April 13 to the administering of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, following reports it could lead to rare but potentially dangerous blood clots.

In a news release, the state Department of Public Health Services said it was yielding to the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The federal agencies called for a pause in using the vaccine until an investigation could be conducted into six cases where clots developed. The unusual clots have occurred 6 to 13 days post-vaccination.

The FDA commissioner said she expected the pause to last a matter of days.

RELATED: J&J COVID-19 vaccine pause: What to know if you received shot, have future appointment and more

The clots were in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets, the fragments in blood that normally form clots. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48. One person died.

More than 226,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been allocated to Arizona. Roughly 122,000 have been given, according to state health officials.

Public health officials in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, will also press the pause button in wake of the new recommendations.

"Maricopa County is working closely with our partners to keep as many scheduled vaccine events running as possible by substituting another available vaccine," Ron Coleman, a county spokesman, said in a statement.

Anyone who has an appointment to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will have to find an appointment to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. According to the news release, health care providers may still give the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if they feel it is appropriate after discussing the matter with the patient.

Meanwhile, Arizona health officials also reported Tuesday another 610 confirmed cases and 19 related deaths. Hospitalizations because of COVID-19 in the state went up slightly from the previous day to 565. The number of people in ICUs remained about the same at 150.

Since the pandemic, Arizona has seen 850,846 cases and 17,105 deaths in total.

J&J vaccine, COVID-19 tracking in Gila County

In Gila County, health officials are hoping the federal study into the vaccine is quick and efficient.

In the meantime, desks being built in a Payson office space will create a workspace for Gila County Public Health to track COVID-19 cases for years to come.

"As we go forward we can try to build pockets around pockets of cases and really put more focus on those positive cases so we can keep from having future outbreaks," said Joshua Beck, Deputy Director of Gila County Public Health.

Gila was the first county nationally to open vaccines to everyone over 18.

While most in the county have received the Moderna vaccine, recently Joshua Beck says the convenience of the 1-dose Johnson & Johnson was pushing them toward herd immunity.

That’s what made Tuesday morning's decision tough.

"We’re getting close to that herd immunity and you’re looking at Johnson & Johnson to get you there quickly but now you really have to reshape your edge and your promotion and work with small organizations, so now you’re going to get there really slowly,"  Beck said.

In Gila County, Beck says they haven’t canceled appointments yet. They hope federal studies will be done quickly like when Europe investigated concerns with Astra Zeneca.

"We’re not actually canceling our events yet. We’re just on pause as we see what happens with the large studies over the next few weeks," Beck said.

J&J vaccine distribution in Phoenix

At a vaccine drive on Tuesday morning in Phoenix, Circle The City, which provides health care to those facing homelessness, stopped using the J&J vaccine.

"We are continuing with the vaccine drive. We are only giving out the Moderna vaccine until we hear differently," said Marty Hames with Circle the City.


Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

MORE: How to sign up and schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

MORE: Maricopa County COVID-19 vaccine status updates

MORE: Arizona Dept. of Health COVID-19 vaccine prioritization

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

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