FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear said the pause of use for the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine shouldn’t slow the Commonwealth’s vaccination efforts down too much.

What You Need To Know

  • The FDA recommended pausing use of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine over concerns of clotting

  • The J&J vaccine only makes up about 5% of total doses administered in Kentucky so far

  • All mass vaccination sites in the Commonwealth are still open

  • Appointments for Pfizer and Moderna doses can carry on

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended healthcare providers hold off on using the J&J COVID-19 vaccine for now. The administration said, of the nearly 7 million people who have received the J&J shot so far in the U.S., six women developed a rare and severe form of a blood clot. The FDA said it recommended the pause in the use of the shot so it can inform healthcare providers about best practices for treating patients with this type of clotting.

“It is a slightly different treatment than I would give someone who has a regular clot,” said Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at UofL Health. “We are looking for more information. People need to be aware of this. We may come back in a week or so and say, 'you know what, it is still safe and effective.'”

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. EST to review these clotting cases and assess potential significance. After that meeting, the FDA will also review that analysis. The FDA says this recommended pause in use will continue until that process is complete. It’s unclear when that may be.

Beshear is hopeful this recommended pause in use may be short-lived. Even if it carries on, Beshear said it should not hinder the Commonwealth’s vaccination effort too much. The J&J shot only makes up about 5% of administered vaccines in Kentucky so far. 

This news from the FDA led to appointment cancellations at some pharmacies and pop-up sites. However, all mass vaccination sites in the Commonwealth are still open. That’s because those sites are administering Pfizer and Moderna doses. 

Beshear knows this news about the J&J vaccine could hinder confidence in COVID-19 vaccinations in general. However, he emphasized how rare these complications are.

“You have a one in 1 million shot of getting clots if you get the J&J vaccine. While you have a one in 558 chance, again those odds aren’t moving in our favor, of dying from COVID,” said Beshear. “Get a vaccine. It’s incredibly important at this time. We cannot let this slow us down.”

The governor was asked whether he has plans to get Pfizer and Moderna doses to places like pharmacies that were affected by the J&J pause in use. He said he is waiting to see what comes from the CDC meeting Wednesday before making plans, as the CDC and FDA may recommend the J&J vaccine is okay to start using again.

UofL Health has been primarily using Pfizer and Moderna. However, last week the healthcare system received around 4,000 J&J doses. Those were used during a soft opening of the Cardinal Stadium mass vaccination site. Smith said they only used around 1,100 of those. He said UofL Health will hold onto those extra doses in case the FDA and CDC say providers can start administering those shots again.

“I don’t think anyone is going to discard it or destroy this vaccine. My guess is in a few weeks, the CDC and the FDA will continue to let this vaccine be used and we will continue to use this in the future,” said Smith.

The FDA said vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government. Beshear said there are appointments still open this week at sites all across the state. He encourages everyone to keep getting vaccinated. On Monday, Beshear said he will ease some coronavirus restrictions such as capacity limits and curfews once 2.5 million Kentuckians receive at least one dose.