DoD, VA Pause Distribution of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

DoD, VA Pause Distribution of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine
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By MOAA Staff


DoD and the VA both stopped offering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine April 13 after a half-dozen of the 6.8 million U.S. recipients reported a rare and severe type of blood clot.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended “a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” according to an April 13 joint statement. All six cases involved women ages 18-48; anyone who has taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and experiences severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks of their shot should reach out to their health care provider, according to the statement. 


DoD has been following CDC guidelines throughout the vaccine process, said Maj. Gen. George “Ned” Appenzeller, assistant director for combat support at the Defense Health Agency (DHA), during an April 14 COVID-19 update streamed on Facebook by Military OneSource. Because of the new recommendation, Appenzeller said, DoD will be “doing a pause based on this rare but significant event.”


The VA will attempt to confirm whether its beneficiaries who received the vaccine and are in the at-risk group (women under 55 years old) are experiencing any of the above symptoms, according to information provided to MOAA. DHA has yet to release any similar details.


The one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which can be stored under conventional refrigeration (unlike the Pfizer variant), had been seen as a significant development in vaccinating DoD personnel in remote locations. It is unclear when or whether the vaccine will re-enter circulation.


The VA had distributed more than 109,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines as of April 12, with about 101,000 of those going to veterans and the rest to employees, caregivers, and others.


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More than 1 million DoD beneficiaries had been vaccinated as of April 13, Appenzeller said, with more than 1 in 4 servicemembers (active and reserve components) receiving all their shots. About 2.4 million doses have been given out by DoD to servicemembers, family members, civilians, and contractors, he said.


DoD plans to open vaccine appointments to all adults on April 19, Appenzeller said, though availability will vary based on location. Those who’ve been vaccinated outside the DHA system are asked to provide their shot records for inclusion with their medical paperwork.


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