The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is instructing Wisconsin vaccine providers to stop administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to a federal review of adverse side effects reported. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement saying six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis have been reported in the U.S. out of 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses given.

“We are pausing administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of an abundance of caution. At this time, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “Vaccine providers should not administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at this time, and should hold on to the vaccine until federal review has been completed.”

Vaccine providers should continue to hold the vaccine at proper storage and continue timely reporting of any adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). This pause will allow CDC to determine if there are any further cases of this clotting disorder and to provide health care providers with guidance on how to treat this rare condition.

“There is still a lot to learn about how the vaccine might cause the problems that occurred in the six patients, which included blood clots around the brain and low platelets, but they do appear to be very rare,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer for DHS. “For residents who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, be in contact with your health care provider if you have a severe headache or new vision problems during the first two weeks after receiving the vaccine.”

People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should monitor for the following symptoms three weeks after their vaccination: severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. Symptoms associated with these severe events have occurred six to 13 days after vaccine receipt. Contact your health care provider to report symptoms.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines continue to remain extremely safe vaccines. DHS encourages everyone eligible to get the vaccine to continue with their vaccination, especially in light of variants. Wisconsin continues to have a good supply of these vaccines; 96% of the doses administered in the state have been Pfizer and Moderna.

“So far, there have been no reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis with low platelets in anyone who has received one of the mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccines,” said Dr. Westergaard. “The FDA, CDC, and DHS continue to recommend the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at this time, while the adverse events related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine continue to be investigated.”

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