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WVU pauses Johnson & Johnson vaccinations based on joint CDC and FDA recommendation

West Virginia University in Morgantown and Beckley will pause administration of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine based on a joint recommendation released today (April 13) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Out of more than 6.8 million doses administered in the U.S., six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot in individuals who have received the J&J vaccine are being monitored.

(Note: To date Potomac State College has utilized only the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines on campus with second vaccinations to be administered in upcoming weeks.)

“The finding of abnormal blood clotting is extremely rare in citizens receiving the J&J vaccine, and in response to FDA and CDC guidance, and acting out of a great amount of caution, we will pause vaccinations with the J&J product for now, "Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean of WVU Health Sciences and West Virginia’s Coronavirus Czar, said. "The fact that CDC and FDA are acting out of caution for 6 clotting episodes in 6.8 million doses given should reassure West Virginia residents that we are watching any and all associated findings in those vaccinated to make sure safety is our priority.”

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is convening a meeting on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. Until that process is complete, WVU will pause in the use of the J&J vaccine on all campuses out of an abundance of caution. WVU will work with those who have appointments to receive the J&J doses, including a clinic scheduled for Wednesday, April 14, to reschedule for Pfizer and Moderna doses based on availability.

WVU administered 846 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during a clinic held on Thursday, April 8 at the Student Recreation Center on the Morgantown Campus. All other clinics held at WVU have administered doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.

The type of blood clot observed is called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and is seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. 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. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

“We know that the key to saving lives and improving outcomes from COVID-19 in West Virginia is continuing to choose to be vaccinated,” Marsh said. “We have sufficient Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to continue our goal of vaccinating all West Virginia residents, and the key to our success or failure to save lives and protect West Virginia citizens is the number of people choosing to get vaccinated.”

WVU strongly recommends all students and employees be vaccinated for COVID-19. If you have questions about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, the University suggests speaking with your primary care physician or a representative from WVU Medicine Student Health

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