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Pennsylvania Health Department Extends Pause Of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Until April 24 Or When CDC, FDA Update Guidance

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Health has extended the pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine until April 24 or when guidance from the CDC and FDA is updated. Health officials notified all COVID-19 vaccine providers about the extension on the pause Thursday.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended pausing the use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate whether it caused some rare blood clots and is linked to one death. An emergency meeting ended on Wednesday without taking a vote to change the current recommendation to pause the administration of the vaccine.

The committee is reviewing data that at least six women between the ages of 18 to 48 developed a rare and severe type of blood clot within 13 days of being vaccinated. One of the six cases which are being studied includes a 26-year-old Pennsylvania woman.

"The next case was also reported to Jansen directly comes from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The case is a 26-year-old female," one official said.

The unidentified woman was hospitalized for a week-and-a-half and has been released. There's no other information about the case.

Officials say the six cases occurred in women between 18 and 48 who were among the 6.8 Americans who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Out of the more than 6.6 million vaccine doses that have been given in Pennsylvania, only 247,063 doses have been Johnson & Johnson.

Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley says the people who have already gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should not be concerned.

"They shouldn't be concerned," Farley said. "This has happened, again, one in a million people who get vaccinated. Generally happened in the first two weeks after the vaccine, so most people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are past that window. Also, just to point out, it is much more widely for people to have complications from the infection than the vaccine, so people really shouldn't be worried about the vaccine — should be more worried about the epidemic and protecting themselves from that."

No issues have been linked to the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, but officials are worried the pause on J&J will increase vaccine hesitancy.

"We believe that by empowering Americans with data and facts, we will strengthen the public's trust in government and increase their confidence in the vaccines," said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients.

Dr. Farley reminds anyone hesitant to receive the vaccine that complications to the Johnson & Johnson doses are extremely rare.

"As we pointed out, if it is a complication with the Johnson & Johnson it is extremely rare, like the likelihood of getting struck by lightning. Also, the other vaccines available are fundamentally different technology. Now, 190 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have not seen this complication so those are extraordinarily safe," Farley said.

Following the advisory panel vote, the CDC and FDA are expected to make a final recommendation to states. They expect to reconvene in a week to 10 days.

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