San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Johnson & Johnson doses can resume in state
Shots of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can resume in California, officials said Saturday, allowing Bay Area counties to begin administering the shots for the first time in nearly two weeks.
The move came a day after federal health officials declared the vaccine safe. The federal government paused use of the vaccine over concerns about rare occurrences of blood clots.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup announced that it had completed a review and “concluded that the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID19 vaccine should resume in the Western States.” The group of scientists in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington reviews independently COVID19 vaccines as they move through the federal approval process.
Two Bay Area counties, Alameda and Marin, said Friday they were ready to begin readministering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as soon as they got the green light from the state.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Department of Public Health officials confirmed the coalition’s decision Saturday evening.
“After additional review, analysis and scrutiny, experts have concluded the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, effective and will protect you against the COVID19 virus,” Newsom said in a statement. “To date, about a million Californians have already received this vaccine — including myself and many of the state’s top doctors. I encourage all Californians to trust the science, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones and end the pandemic.”
Dr. Erica Pan, state epidemiologist, said California vaccination clinics may resume using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine immediately as long as they provide materials informing patients of the vaccine’s rare risk of blood clots and other available vaccination options.
“More than half of Californians 16 and older have received one of the three vaccines available, and the oneshot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also an important tool in our fight to stop the spread of COVID19, especially as more aggressive variants of the virus spread throughout the country,” she said. “We hope we continue to make progress in getting more Californians vaccinated so we can move beyond this pandemic.”
California and Bay Area counties halted use of the J&J vaccines on April 13 after six people, out of more than 7.5 million who had received the onedose shots, developed lifethreatening blood clots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, reviewed the cases and decided the risk of severe disease and death from COVID19 is much higher than the risk of developing rare blood clots from the vaccine.
“In the end, this vaccine was shown to be safe and effective for the vast majority of people,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said in a news briefing Friday evening. “We’re pleased to have resolution today.”
Federal regulators said Friday that the vaccine could again be used immediately. Local health officials said they would wait for approval from the state and the Western States group, which began its review of the federal safety investigation Friday. California and the Western States group typically follow CDC decisions.
On Friday, the Alameda County and Berkeley health departments said they have a “modest existing supply” of the vaccine and that they plan to use it as soon as possible. “We will work with our community organizations and partners to disseminate information about Johnson & Johnson, as well as the other two available COVID19 vaccines,” the departments said in a statement. “All currently approved vaccines are proven to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization or death from COVID19. We remind residents that the best vaccine is the first one offered to them.”
Marin County health officials echoed that message and urged residents not to shy away from the J&J vaccine.
“The J&J vaccine is a valuable tool in our vaccination toolkit for reaching our highest risk populations where administering a twoshot regimen may be challenging,” the county public health department said in a statement. “In addition, many Marin residents have requested the J&J vaccine because of the “oneanddone” ease of the product.
All six of the cases that prompted federal regulators to pause use of the vaccine involved women ages 18 to 48, and one woman died. The panel’s review found some additional cases — in total, 15 cases, including three deaths, out of roughly 8 million doses given. The evidence suggests an increased risk of blood clots one to two weeks after vaccination, though it is extremely rare.