The Kent County Health Department and FEMA canceled appointments this week to immunize 1,700 individuals in Kent and Cecil counties with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine — following an advisory from the FDA and CDC to suspend its use after six women experienced severe cerebral blood clotting.
Those individuals will be rescheduled to receive the Moderna vaccine.
One woman has died as a result of the vaccine and one is in critical condition, said Kent County Health Officer William Webb in an interview shortly after the advisory was issued on Tuesday.
The clotting occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48 with symptoms of severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain and shortness of breath. The symptoms occurred within 6 to 13 days of receiving the vaccine.
The clotting causes cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a form of a stroke, which is dangerous to treat with typical anticoagulant drugs.
This is a severe adverse event,” he said. “Severe enough to suspend a part of one of the largest vaccination initiatives this country has ever seen.”
Nearly seven million J&J vaccines have been administered nationwide so far and a FEMA initiative with Kent and Cecil counties to vaccinate 1,500 agricultural workers with the drug maker’s vaccine this week was cancelled.
Appointments for 190 individuals to receive the J&J vaccine at Kent County Community Center in Worton were also cancelled and those individuals will be rescheduled for the Moderna vaccine as well.
“This is quite a substantial [problem],” Webb said. “We had 1,500 doses going out into the community starting at 9 a.m. this morning.”
“It’s really an unfortunate turn of events and it really hurts the credibility of the manufacturer,” he said. “We spend so much time fighting vaccine hesitancy, and to have something like this happen will just make this whole process drag out longer.”
The Kent County Health Department had an additional 190 J&J vaccinations scheduled for Wednesday at the community center in Worton.
Webb said another initiative to deliver 200-400 Johnson & Johnson doses to Washington College students this week was also cancelled.
The CDC has advised that inventories be maintained until further guidance is issued, according to an advisory passed down by the Maryland Health Department on Tuesday.
“Maryland Department of Health directs all Maryland COVID-19 vaccine providers to pause the administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines until further federal guidance is issued,” said the statement from the Maryland Health Department.
Webb said the Kent County Health Department would try to reschedule the Johnson & Johnson appointments with the two shot Moderna immunization process, but that the planning was not yet finalized.
“We want to try and take everyone who was scheduled for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and give them first priority and reschedule them for the Moderna vaccine,” he said.