June 14, 2021


Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

L.A. pauses use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

Los Angeles will temporarily stop administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine — a move federal health officials had recommended Tuesday morning following reports of six serious blood clots.

The pause will remain in place at all vaccination sites in the city until further notice. Those who have already scheduled appointments for Tuesday will receive another vaccine, Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell wrote on Twitter.

The California Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to an inquiry Tuesday morning about whether the state will likewise cease administering Johnson & Johnson for the time being.

But any prolonged interruption in the use of that vaccine threatens to throw a significant wrench in the state’s inoculation campaign — and comes just days before the state is scheduled to open eligibility to all residents 16 and older.

The city of L.A. had moved even faster, announcing that residents within that age range would be eligible for a vaccine at city-run sites beginning Tuesday.

California has also set a target date of June 15 to fully reopen its economy, though state officials said doing so will heavily hinge on vaccination progress.

It’s unclear how the Johnson & Johnson pause may affect that goal.

To date, providers throughout California have administered 23 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 38.8% of residents have received at least one shot, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Almost 875,000 Johnson & Johnson doses have been administered statewide to date, federal data show.

The CDC has scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” said a joint statement from Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the healthcare provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

Even before the pause, California was running into supply issues with that vaccine.

Although California’s allocations of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are expected to remain relatively steady this week, the state — along with the rest of the nation — saw its supply of Johnson & Johnson slashed.

Last week, 574,900 Johnson & Johnson doses were allocated to the Golden State. This week, that number will plummet to 67,600, an 88% drop, CDC data show.

The allocation is expected to fall even further next week, to 22,400 doses, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The free-falling number of available Johnson & Johnson doses stems from a production issue at a plant in Baltimore — where the drugmaker said a number of doses (news reports pegged the number at 15 million) failed quality standards and couldn’t be used.

Johnson & Johnson is now “working closely with the [Food and Drug Administration] to resolve any manufacturing issues,” as well as “installing a new senior leadership team to oversee all aspects of production and manufacturing at the facility,” according to Jeff Zients, coordinator of President Biden’s COVID-19 task force.

This nosedive for Johnson & Johnson will drive down the size of the state’s federal allocation from the 2.4 million doses received last week, to 2 million this week and 1.9 million next week.

The rise in vaccine available in recent weeks had brought hope California could finally conquer COVID-19.

Los Angeles residents this week will have several new options for obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine, including a new clinic in Chinatown.

The Chinatown site will make use of a hybrid format of appointments and walk-ups to ensure that residents 65 and older have equitable access to the vaccine.