MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin joined other states Tuesday in suspending the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine while federal agencies investigate six cases in which women who received the single-dose drug later developed blood clots.
State health officials made the move after the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration recommended the course of action, saying the pause could last days.
The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and in patients who also had low amounts of platelets, the blood fragments that normally form clots. All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48, including one who died.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake said the clots appear to be extremely rare but that the state was pausing the use of the J&J vaccine out of an abundance of caution.
DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said during a news conference that although the clots seem to be rare, the pause will give doctors a chance to review patient records and perhaps detect more vaccinated people who are suffering from them.
“We want to know what is the true number,” Van Dijk said. “This is a way to alert (physicians) to this unique situation.”
She said she hopes the pause will last only a few days to a week and that state officials still hope to use the J&J vaccine at some point. COVID-19 still presents a greater risk than the vaccine, she said.
“(The clot) risk is about one in a million,” she said. “The risk of getting COVID is one in 10. The risk of dying of COVID is one in 600. It’s important to look at that whole picture.”
State health officials on Tuesday reported 922 new COVID-19 infections and 10 more deaths from the disease. The state’s infection rate continues to rise. The seven-day average daily case rate was 794 on Tuesday, up from 329 on March 7.