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Health, Science & Tech

Pittsburgh's COVID Vaccine Providers Change Plans After Pause On J&J

Virus Outbreak
Mary Altaffer
FILE — In this March 31, 2021, file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. U.S. health regulators on Tuesday, April 13, is recommending a “pause” in using the vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Medical providers in western Pennsylvania are adjusting plans after the federal government’s recommendation to pause the administration of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine.

On Tuesday morning the Food and Drug Administration cited concerns about the possibility of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a rare type of blood clotting, as the reason for the pause. Six women between the ages of 18-48 developed these clots less than two weeks after receiving the vaccine. One of the women died.

Nearly 7 million people in the US have received the J&J shot, meaning that if the blood clots are related to the vaccine, it’s an extremely rare side effect.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health told all COVID-19 vaccine providers in the state to stop administering the single-shot J&J vaccine until at least April 20 “out of an abundance of caution."

According to federal data, Pennsylvania has received 778,000 doses of the J&J vaccine and administered more than 257,000.

The Wolf administration had reserved its initial allotment of the J&J vaccine for educators. The vast majority of Pennsylvania residents who have been vaccinated received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, which are unaffected by the pause.

UPMC had planned to use J&J for a two-day drive-through clinic at Pittsburgh Mills in Tarentum where some 12,000 people were slated to be vaccinated. UPMC said the clinic will go forward with the Pfizer shot. So far 8,300 people are registered for the clinic; even with the change in vaccine UPMC says it can accommodate up to 10,000.

Like UPMC, Allegheny Health Network is also pausing J&J administration. On Saturday,* AHN gave up to 13,000 doses to people at a Monroeville clinic; AHN said it has received no reports of the blood clotting condition following vaccination with J&J.

“However, people who have received this vaccine type and develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider,” said an AHN press release. “AHN will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

The Allegheny County Health Department said it is contacting providers to alert them of this development. Clinics operated by the department have only been administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

*An earlier version of this story erroneously stated the day of the clinic.