UPMC Pauses Administration of J&J COVID-19 Vaccine per CDC, FDA Guidance

By: Courtney Caprara

UPMC is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Allegheny County Health Department instructing vaccinators to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Donald M. Yealy

This pause allows for careful and prompt study of extremely rare adverse outcomes seen in six women, age 18 to 48, who experienced a severe type of blood clot within two weeks of receiving the vaccine. These outcomes are among more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine administered in the United States.

“This is meant to be a ‘light tap of the brakes’ so we can understand the problem, and it’s not a declaration of a lack of safety,” said Dr. Donald M. Yealy, UPMC’s chief medical officer. “Vaccination remains a critical component of our COVID-19 mitigation efforts — which also include masking, distancing and hand washing.”

The complications under evaluation for the J&J vaccine are not reported for either of the approved two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

“If you or a loved one received the J&J vaccine, do not panic. The reported adverse effects are extremely rare given how many doses have been administered. If you have any adverse effects relating to blood clotting, contact your physician,” Yealy advised.

UPMC remains committed to making COVID-19 vaccines available and accessible. The health system is working to shift to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for previously scheduled J&J appointments, including the drive-up mass vaccination event at Pittsburgh Mills and at the UPMC Northwest regional vaccine clinic this week.

If patients receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead of a planned J&J vaccine, UPMC will schedule an appointment for the second shot.

To find the latest information and to register for a UPMC vaccine clinic, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com.