Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused in Illinois, Indiana after reports of blood clots

Anyone who received J&J vaccine experiencing blood clot symptoms asked to contact health care provider
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago, Illinois and Indiana health departments announced Tuesday that they will be pausing the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said it's allocation of Johnson and Johnson for this week was 17,000 doses. Next week, the state was set to receive an additional 5,800 Johnson and Johnson shots out of a total of 483,720 doses.

WATCH | Illinois pauses use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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Vaccination plans are on hold for thousand of Illinoisans after concerns about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine prompted the FDA to take emergency action today to pause distribution

The state of Indiana also announced that it would be pausing the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Those with appointments for the Johnson and Johnson shots will be given either Pfizer or Moderna shots.

The announcements come after new guidance from the CDC and FDA warning of reports of blood clots in six women.

"It doesn't mean they are necessarily going to stop using the vaccine, we just don't know yet," said Dr. Richard Novak, UIC Infectious Disease Director.

What do Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients need to know?

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Dr. Robert Citronberg with Advocate Aurora Health answers COVID-19 vaccine questions.

Novak, who conducted UIC's J & J trials in Chicago, said the blood clots are very different and rare compared to your average blood clot. All six cases of blood clots occurred among women ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.

Novak said there were no problems in their study group, which is the same for most people who take the vaccine. The 6 cases are out of 6.8 million J & J shots given, which is less than a 1 in 1 million chance of blood clots.

"Whereas being struck by lightning in any given year is a one in 700,000 risk," said Mark Pfister, Lake County Health Dept.

WATCH | What the Johnson & Johnson 'pause' means

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Dr. Richard Novak, who conducted J & J trials in Chicago, said the blood clots reported are very different and rare compared to your average blood clot.

Faye Safi got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Des Plaines Tuesday morning and she said she understood the risk that can come with anything.

"There's risk even walking outside of your home," Safi said. "You know so you have to protect your family and protect the public."

As of Monday, of the over 2.8 million people fully vaccinated, 9.6% received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Of the nearly 7.5 million doses administered in Illinois, 3.6% (270,799) have been Johnson and Johnson vaccines, according to the CDC.

RELATED: FDA and CDC call for 'pause' on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after blood clot reports

"Whenever there is a pause, people get anxious or nervous, but I think the best thing to realize is the system worked," said Dr. Kathleen Mullane, UChicago Medicine Infectious Disease Specialist.

While federal regulators learn more, a "pause" is not as severe as a hold or stoppage of a vaccine. Although, doctors says a pause is important because it tells them to take notice.

"So if a patient calls and they think they have a headache or belly pain, leg pain we take it seriously, we evaluate it," Mullane said.

But, doctors also want their patients not to panic and put the news in perspective.

"What is the risk of getting COVID and dying from it versus having an adverse reaction from the vaccine," Mullane said.

Doctors call today's move by the FDA and the CDC a very cautious and transparent one that is about safety rather than liability. But, there is concern now about the potential for more vaccine hesitancy.

"The difficulty is that we're going to have to now work much harder to convince our patients to get vaccinated," said Dr. Vishnu Chundi, Chair, COVID-19 Task Force, Chicago Medical Society.

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The FDA's choice to pause Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine use has many doctors fearing an increase on vaccine hesitancy, which could prolong the pandemic.

Dr. Audrey Tanksly, who practices integrative medicine at Chicago's first Black-owned fully comprehensive urgent care, and other doctors are worried about the effect the stoppage will have on communities of color which are already hesitant about the safety of any vaccine.

"I will monitor myself," said Dr. Tanksly, who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. "If I get any headaches or abdominal pain, leg swelling and any of the symptoms the CDC has identified, then I will get evaluated. But I don't think that deters me from still recommending that individuals be vaccinated."

A panel of outside experts will meet Wednesday to review the matter for the CDC while the FDA also conducts an investigation which is expected to take a matter of days.

SEE ALSO: Cook County COVID surge may lead to tightened restrictions, health officials warn

Anyone who has received a Johnson and Johnson vaccine and is experiencing severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the shot should contact their health care provider.

Cook County & Chicago

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CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady speaks on the impact in Chicago from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine pause.

Cook County says anyone who has appointments to get a Johnson and Johnson vaccine will instead be offered either a Moderna or a Pfizer vaccine, but new appointments may be delayed.

"See whether alternative vaccines are available, meaning the Pfizer or Moderna, and to make sure that they have enough vaccine in order not to have to cancel current appointments," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Cook County Dept. of Public Health.

Those who do not wish to get either vaccine can call 833-308-1988 to cancel or reschedule their appointment.

In Matteson, Cook County officials showed off a new mass vaccination clinic that will open Wednesday, offering 4,000 appointments a day. They are hoping the pause in Johnson and Johnson vaccines will not have a significant impact at this and other mass vaccination sites.

Cook County is set to release an additional 35,000 appointments at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The appointments will not include appointments for Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

Appointments can be made at or by calling 833-308-1988, Monday - Friday from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. The call center will be open Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The mass vaccination site at the United Center was expected to switch to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine for all walk-in appointments next week. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said they are waiting to hear from FEMA for an update, but appointment-making for Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been paused for now.

"This is a rare, but severe type of blood clot and I fully support the decision of the CDC and the FDA to recommend this pause while they're understanding the event," Arwady said. "We are very prepared for situations like this, team was working from when we learned about this early this morning to make contingency plans, and I'm very confident that we will be able to continue here without major disruptions."

Arwady said the Chicago State University site would be switching appointments to the Pfizer vaccine.

Appointments at vaccination events at O'Hare and Midway would be put on hold, as well as the Chicago Federation of Labor vaccinations.

Among the groups impacted is the Illinois Restaurant Association, which had to cancel and reschedule a one-day clinic in Albany Park Tuesday that would have vaccinated nearly 600 restaurant workers.

"You know, we were very disappointed. But in light of today's unforeseen announcement about the J&J vaccine, we must take every precaution to protect our team members at all times," said Sam Toia, President, Illinois Restaurant Association.

The Chicago homebound vaccine program will be paused until at least Monday.

Dr. Arwady said more than 43,000 Chicago residents have received a Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Kane County

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The Kane County Health Department canceled two clinics that were supposed to administer 2,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday in Elgin and Aurora.

The Kane County Health Department canceled two clinics that were supposed to administer 2,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday in Elgin and Aurora.

Sara Severson showed up for her J and J dose to find the doors of the old Carson's building locked. She was turned away by security.

"Just that an incident happened and that I was not able to get vaccinated today," Severson said. "They did not really specify."

In the past few weeks, the Kane County Health Department said they have vaccinated at least 11,000 people with the J and J vaccine.

The pause cuts down on the supply, but the county is still confident they have enough Pfizer and Moderna doses to get those people rescheduled.

"Anybody that had an appointment for today we will get them in next Tuesday at the latest," Isaacson said.

Lake County, IL

A spokesperson for the Lake County (Illinois) Health Department said they will stop using the Johnson & Johnson vaccines and pivot to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

"We were scheduled to start operating today at 10 a.m. and we did," said Mark Pfister, Lake County Health Dept. "There was no hesitation, we just pivoted with the Pfizer vaccine. Just drew up a different vaccine and then the J and J is in the fridge waiting on CDC guidance."

Kendall County

The Kendall County Health Dept. canceled a Johnson & Johnson vaccination clinic Tuesday. Anyone with an appointment is asked to visit the county's website to reschedule a first-dose appointment for another day.

McHenry County

The McHenry County Health Department canceled a vaccination clinic Tuesday at Willow Creek Community Church in Crystal Lake. Future J&J clinics will be replaced with either Moderna or Pfizer until further guidance is received from the CDC and the IDPH.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and we appreciate everyone's patience and cooperation," said Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson. "We know that there are many residents who wanted this vaccine in particular, and we will resume administering the J&J vaccine when and if it's safe to do so."

Will County

A spokesperson with the Will County Health Department said they are awaiting guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The spokesperson said they have a small supply of Johnson and Johnson vaccines and are more reliant on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

"We are very lucky that this doesn't affect anything as far as people making appointments to come to get their vaccine," said Steve Brandy, Will County Health Dept. "It is important to know what's going on, it is important to do the research, so everybody's definitely doing the right thing."
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