COVID-19 vaccine clinic

Registered Nurse Greg Warney goes through the process of vaccination with a patient last month at the future Target store.

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Following suit by the Food and Drug Administration, the Wyoming Department of Health is asking providers to pause using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The Teton County Health Department, which works under the auspices of the state Health Department, is set to follow the recommendation.

After rare cases of severe blood clots in patients who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, the FDA is recommending its use be stopped until the cases can be investigated. Six cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis have been found among the 6.8 million people who have received the vaccine in the United States.

All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48; symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.

That rate of roughly one in 1 million is lower than the incidence rate of the condition found in the general population, which studies have put at between three and 15 cases per million people, but the federal agency is acting out of an abundance of caution.

“This is how these things are supposed to work,” Teton County public health response coordinator Rachael Wheeler said.

State Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti echoed the sentiment.

“We see the action recommended by the CDC and FDA is a clear illustration of the high levels of caution associated with the overall vaccination effort,” she wrote in an email. “This is a temporary pause to look a little closer at some extremely rare situations.”

There is no evidence that suggests a correlation between the cases of clots and the vaccine, but the federal government will delve into any data and interview the affected patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will convene the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday to perform such an analysis.

Johnson & Johnson vaccines so far represent a small proportion of the shots administered locally. State Health Department data, which can lag by up to 72 hours, shows that 9,607 people as of Tuesday had been fully vaccinated in Teton County, a number that includes some commuters.

Of those, 914 received the Johnson & Johnson shot, so 9.5%. The county will need to hold onto the estimated 1,086 doses of the vaccine that have been delivered but not yet administered, waiting until the federal government updates the recommendation.

Politico reported Tuesday that the Biden administration anticipates the recommended pause could last several weeks. State and local officials said it’s too early to know how that will affect the vaccine rollout, though Wheeler said county efforts should continue relatively as planned because most shots administered are either Pfizer or Moderna.

The state Health Department has asked health care providers to be aware of the signs of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in case any cases pop up in Wyoming. Anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should monitor themselves for severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain and shortness of breath for three weeks following their vaccination.

Should any of those symptoms arise, call your health care provider.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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