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Arizona recommends J&J vaccine pause after blood clot reports

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Health Services said it is recommending a pause for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports Tuesday of blood clots in a small group of women who received the shots.

Arizona vaccine providers are looking to reschedule J&J appointments as a result during the indefinite pause.

“While the occurrence of this rare blood clot are extremely rare compared to the number of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered nationwide, we are following the guidance of the CDC and FDA out of an abundance of caution and we will continue to work with our federal and statewide partners about the status of the vaccine,” Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director, said in a press release.

The state health department is encouraging those who have scheduled appointments for the one-shot vaccine to find availability for the Pfizer or Moderna two-shot vaccines.

ADHS said providers can still administer the J&J shot if they feel it is clinically appropriate after a discussion with patients.

Arizona’s five state-run mass vaccination sites use the Pfizer vaccine.

Maricopa County said it would try and keep as many scheduled vaccine events as possible by pivoting to Pfizer or Moderna while pausing the use of J&J.

“Maricopa County is working closely with our partners to keep as many scheduled vaccine events running as possible by substituting another available vaccine,” Maricopa County said.

Kroger, the parent company of Fry’s Food and Drug, said Tuesday it would halt distribution of the J&J vaccine.

Fry’s offers the J&J vaccine at about 30 locations in Maricopa County.

Almost half only offer the one-shot option while the others also provide Moderna.

Costco, the other main provider of J&J in Maricopa County with 13 locations, hasn’t yet announced how it will handle vaccine redistribution during the pause.

Other pharmacies that offer the J&J shot in Arizona — such as Walgreens and CVS — have said they will use other vaccines to combat the loss of the one-shot vaccine.

“We are reaching out to patients with scheduled appointments and rescheduling vaccinations from other manufacturers as supply allows,” Walgreens said in a statement.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating clots in six women that occurred in the days getting the J&J shot and recommended a pause in its use.

The clots were observed along with reduced platelet counts — making the usual treatment for blood clots, the blood thinner heparin, potentially “dangerous.”

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases and the FDA has also launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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