Health & Science

Houston, Harris County To Stop Using Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Over Blood Clot Concerns

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine made up about 7% of doses administered in Harris County. Many of those went to underserved communities.

In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a "pause" in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts.

Updated 11:06 a.m. CT

Houston-area vaccination sites will pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine starting Tuesday in response to concerns from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA and CDC recommended providers pause usage out of "an abundance of caution" after six people across the country developing a rare blood clot disorder.

The blood clots were formed 6-13 days after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Department of State Health Services.

None of the cases were in Texas, DSHS said.

In response, both Harris County Public Health and the Houston Health department said they will not be using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until issued further guidance.

"Our Harris County Public Health Department will follow the guidance by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. "If you have an appointment, please keep it. We will be offering vaccine options."

More than 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered throughout Texas, according to state health officials.

Hidalgo did not provide a number of Johnson & Johnson vaccines administered in Harris County, though she did say that it was just 7% of shots delivered by the county health department.

Because the vaccine only requires one dose, the county relied on it for reaching underserved communities in the areas. Many residents in those areas already deal with underlying health issues.

City officials on Tuesday said the blood clot would show up in a three-week window, and suggested anyone who has been given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within that timeframe should be aware of any side effects, including severe headache, shortness of breath, severe abdominal pain, or leg pain.

But Houston Health Department director Dr. David Persse said the disorder was "extremely rare."

"Six out of 6.8 million, less than one in a million chance," Persse said.

Persse added that clots are treatable.

The city did not provide a number of how many Johnson & Johnson doses were administered by the health department.

The FEMA-run vaccine site at NRG Park, which began administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday, will immediately switch over to the Pfizer vaccine. Mobile community vaccine sites will transition to the Moderna vaccine.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the news shouldn't dissuade anyone from getting vaccinated.

"I would be more fearful of the virus, then I would be of taking the vaccine," Turner said. "So let me encourage, especially in communities of color, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and others, let me encourage you to get this vaccine. It will keep you out of the hospital, can keep you alive, and can put you in a better position where you can start socializing with your family members and friends."

Additional reporting by Paul DeBenedetto and Elizabeth Trovall

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