Cook County health officials said Wednesday that use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine, currently paused for a federal review, could soon resume.
Cook County, Chicago and Illinois all paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week following a recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after the agencies said they were investigating six cases of rare blood clots in women who had received the vaccine.
"We anticipate hearing from the CDC and the FDA later this week that the vaccine will be put back into use but probably with some restrictions and certainly a warning about the potential for the very rare complication of blood clots," Cook County Department of Public Health Senior Medical Officer Dr. Rachel Rubin said during a news conference Wednesday.
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"Many people are asking for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, one-dose vaccine, and we will continue to offer it once it is approved for use again," she added.
"Our new case numbers are continuing to be high but it looks like we are leveling off with the daily numbers and our positivity rate," Rubin continued. "So that's good news but we need to remain vigilant and having all three vaccines available allows greater numbers of people to be vaccinated."
Illinois has received 760,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, of which 290,615 doses have been administered. Cook County's vaccine supply comes through the state's allocation, while Chicago is separate.
Chicago has received 91,000 doses of the Johnson& Johnson vaccine, less than 5% of the more than 1.9 million doses of all three available vaccines that the city has received from the federal government thus far.
The FDA and CDC recommended a nationwide pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as it investigates 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 J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
U.S. federal distribution channels, including mass vaccination sites, paused the use of the J&J shot, and states and other providers followed suit. The other two authorized vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, make up the vast share of COVID-19 shots administered in the U.S. and are not affected by the pause.
Officials say they also want to educate vaccine providers and health professionals about the “unique treatment” required for this type of clot.
Officials are recommending that people who were given the J&J 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.