After federal health agencies recommended a “pause” on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, USC announced on Tuesday that it will now be only administering the Pfizer vaccine for upcoming appointments.
Prior to the decision, USC sent an email to students on April 7 announcing that students were eligible to schedule J&J vaccine appointments for April 15 and 16. In a meeting with Annenberg Media on April 12, USC’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman confirmed that 735 students had signed up for the J&J vaccine on those dates
In an interview with Annenberg Media, Dr. Van Orman said that USC was able to acquire enough Pfizer doses to cover the existing vaccine appointments.
On April 13, nearly seven million doses of J&J’s single dose coronavirus vaccine had been administered in the U.S. Now, federal health agencies have called for the distribution to come to a pause after extremely rare blood clotting was found in six recipients.
The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have both recommended a pause in using the J&J vaccine out of “an abundance of caution.” White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a briefing on Tuesday that the pause could last days to a few weeks, until the FDA and CDC have examined the links between the disorder and the vaccine.
The agencies also mentioned that these cases of blood clot “appear to be extremely rare.” All six cases were among women between the ages of 18 and 48 with symptoms occurring six to 13 days after vaccination, according to the statement.
Dr. Rita Burke at Keck School of Medicine of USC told Annenberg Media that the pause on the J&J vaccine was most likely done to air on the side of caution.
“Given that the evidence will show that it’s safe, it will be safe for everyone to take,” Dr. Burke said.
Starting April 15, every person over the age of 16 will be eligible for vaccination in California.
Vaccination supply across the nation of the J&J vaccine has been unreliable even before the recommendation by federal health agencies to pause J&J distribution. On April 9, the White House warned the vaccine’s supply would fall off by 86% due to regulatory setbacks at a manufacturing plant.
California’s J&J vaccine inventory from the federal government accounted for less than 4% of the total vaccine inventory, according to a tweet by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA). Gov. Newsom ensured that vaccines are still “overwhelmingly safe,” despite recent rare complications.
Dr. Van Orman and the governor both stressed the urgency that students get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“We are in a race against time with getting as many people vaccinated as possible while we’re maintaining those mitigation measures to prevent spread so we don’t get variants,” she said.
Dr. Van Orman also encouraged students to look at any other available vaccination sites in an effort to combat any short vaccination supply at USC.
“We’re encouraging people to just get the vaccine wherever they have access to it,” said Van Orman.
USC community members can find COVID-19 resources on the university’s coronavirus website.