Today, the FDA recommended a pause on the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to investigate reports that several people developed severe blood clots after receiving the shot. Massachusetts was already anticipating a sizable drop in the number of J&J shots it was set to receive in the coming weeks after a contamination at its manufacturing plant forced the company to scrap millions of doses.
On Tuesday morning, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced that it had directed providers across the state to pause J&J vaccinations until further research can be conducted about risks.
“This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution as the FDA and CDC review these six cases, none of which are known to be linked to Massachusetts,” the DPH statement read.
GBH News State House reporter Mike Deehan told Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu that upon hearing about the CDC recommendations, Rep. Bill Driscoll, chair of the House's COVID Emergency Preparedness and Management Committee, believed that the state should take the FDA’s advice to pause administration of the J&J vaccine until more research can be done.
"Yes, the state should follow guidance from the CDC,” Driscoll told Deehan.
Deehan said that the timing of the decrease in doses to Massachusetts could be a “silver lining” to the news about J&J’s pause.
“After getting 100,000 doses last week, the state only got around 12,000 for distribution this week from those federal suppliers that are now saying that it needs to be rolled back,” Deehan said. “So I guess that's kind of where we're standing right now, is that it's not going to be as impactful this week and there is some time for the Commonwealth to figure things out.”
Deehan reported yesterday that Gov. Baker has been calling for more consistency from the federal government on the J&J vaccine distribution, saying that its unpredictability has made it difficult to speed up the state’s process.
“This is absolutely the main thrust of what Gov. Baker was saying yesterday ... that he and other governors, the main thing that they want to see right now is [a] more consistent response from the federal government about how much J&J they're going to send. He said he didn't care if it was only 40,000 doses a week to the state. He just wanted to know so that he could plan."
Because J&J is only one shot and doesn’t need to be stored in extreme cold temperatures, Deehan said governors like Baker were counting on the vaccine’s flexibility to ramp up vaccinations and reach more under-served communities.
“And that was really the hope of this,” Deehan said. “And now that's just on pause.”
This story has been updated to include information about the Massachusetts DPH's announcement directing providers to pause administering the J&J vaccine.