Colorado temporarily pauses distribution of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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DENVER | Colorado is temporarily halting its distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the FDA and CDC announced that six people in the U.S. developed  rare severe blood clots after receiving the vaccine.

In a Tuesday news conference, Gov. Jared Polis said that the pause will hopefully only last a few days and that it should not significantly disrupt the state’s vaccination supply. 

He stressed that the risks of contracting COVID-19 still significantly outweigh the potential risk of the J&J vaccine and urged Coloradans to continue to get vaccinated.

The adverse effects appear to be “extremely rare,” according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Anyone who received the J&J vaccine within the last three weeks and develops a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath should contact a healthcare provider.

People who were scheduled to receive a J&J vaccine should expect to hear from their vaccine provider, Polis said. Some people will probably have to be rescheduled, but he said that the state is working to try and help as many people as possible keep their appointments and receive a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine instead.

People who specifically want to receive a J&J vaccine will have to wait a little while and reschedule, he said.

Polis said that he was on a call with White House officials this morning and was told to expect the pause to be “days, not weeks.”

The state will be switching public health orders related to COVID-19 over to local county control on Friday, April 16. However, there is still an increase in case rates across the state and Polis said that it is still important to try and keep transmission at a low level over the next month, especially now that variants of the virus are much more prevalent in Colorado.

He urged people to get tested if they have flu-like symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus, reminding people that it has never been easier to get a COVID test than it is now.

CDPHE executive director Jill Ryan said that an estimated one in 196 Coloradans are infectious with the virus. Another estimated 30% are immune either due to being vaccinated or having previously contracted the virus.

Polis asked people to continue to take common-sense measures like social distancing, mask wearing and avoiding large indoor gatherings before being vaccinated. Because of the state’s vaccination progress, hopefully this wave of the virus will not be as deadly, he said.

However if contracted, “the risk to the individual is the same.”