Chicago officials announced updated plans for the city's COVID-19 vaccination rollout after pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccines following federal recommendations.
Chicago ordered a temporarily halt of the single-dose vaccine based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as they investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.
Here are the latest updates to the city's vaccination plan:
- The Chicago State University mass vaccination site switched to Pfizer vaccine beginning Wednesday
- The Protect Chicago Homebound program will switch to Pfizer vaccine with appointments resuming Friday
- Events scheduled with Walgreens as part of the Faith Month initiative this weekend will use the Pfizer vaccine
- Chicago Federation of Labor vaccination site will switch to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but limited to 1,200 doses per week. Appointments resume on Monday
- Events with the Illinois Restaurant Association are on hold until the week of April 26
- The O'Hare vaccination site previously using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will close. Anyone with a scheduled appointment will be invited to receive a vaccination at Wright College or the United Center
- The Chicago Department of Public Health-Chicago Transit Authority vaccination bus remains on pause
- All other vaccination locations in Chicago using Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will operate as normal
Illinois officials said this week that the state's decision to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine "will not have a large impact" on the state's vaccination plans.
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“Public health officials made a commitment that any safety signals that came up concerning COVID-19 vaccines would be fully addressed in a transparent manner, which is what is occurring right now with the J&J vaccine,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “The blood clot cases appear to be extremely rare and there are no reported cases associated with either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccines. IDPH is taking immediate action to ensure as little disruption to Illinois residents as possible during this pause, and I strongly encourage people to continue to get vaccinated. Millions upon millions of people have already been safely vaccinated and it will take millions more before we can put this pandemic behind us.”
Health officials say a majority of Illinois' vaccine doses are from Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines. Of the expected 483,720 doses the state is set to receive next week, 5,800 were set to be Johnson & Johnson.
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In a joint statement Tuesday, the CDC and FDA said they were investigating unusual clots in six women that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48.
The reports appear similar to a rare, unusual type of clotting disorder that European authorities say is possibly linked to another COVID-19 vaccine not yet cleared in the U.S., from AstraZeneca.
More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
An advisory committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to review the reactions and consider how to proceed.
Officials are recommending that people who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who are experiencing severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the shot contact their health care provider.
If you received the Johnson & Johnson shot and have not developed any of the side effects associated with signs of blood clots within three weeks after vaccination, the risk of an adverse reaction is unlikely. Health officials urge patients to continue monitoring for symptoms.
"This is different than the short-term side effects of just a couple of days," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday. "If people got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the last two to three days, and they're having, you know, they're feeling tired or they're having a sore arm or a little bit of a headache - that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about really a more severe headache, more severe side effects that are coming more in the, you know, typically, in this case they ranged from six to 13 days after vaccination on, but we're saying up to three weeks just just to let folks know."
Officials say they also want to educate vaccine providers and health professionals about the “unique treatment” required for this type of clot.
"Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered," the FDA and CDC statement read. "Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given."