Johnson County resumes use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine — what you need to know

Johnson and Johnson vaccine

The county suspended it's use of the one-shot J&J vaccine after the CDC and FDA ordered a pause following a very limited number of blood clots that developed in young women who had received it. The J&J vaccine in Johnson County is being reserved for hard-to-reach populations, like homebound individuals and those with transportation challenges. Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson.

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Following the CDC and FDA’s decision to remove their pause on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Johnson County says it will restart its distribution of the single-shot vaccine this week.

The local supply of that vaccine, however, remains limited, local health officer Dr. Joseph LeMaster said.

Johnson County receives about 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine overall each week from the state, and only 2,000 of the county’s allotment is Johnson and Johnson.

“It’s still a very small part of the vaccinations that we’re supplying in Johnson County,” LeMaster said.

Johnson and Johnson distribution

At this time, Johnson County residents getting vaccinated at the county’s mass vaccination site in Lenexa will not receive the Johnson and Johnson shot.

Distribution of the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine is being reserved primarily for people who are homebound, people who are homeless or housing insecure, those with transportation needs and other groups where it might be logistically challenging to try scheduling a second dose appointment.

“The review of all the available data at this time shows that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks,” LeMaster said. “We feel comfortable using it in the way that we are.”

Is the vaccine safe?

The isolated cases of complications that led to the vaccine’s temporary pause in the U.S. are extremely rare, LeMaster said.

“It is a serious condition that involves blood clots and low platelets,” LeMaster said. “It is a severe illness but very, very rare.”

Of the millions of people who received that vaccine in the U.S., just 15 cases of the complication were found. The majority of those post-vaccine blood clots were found in women under the age of 50 and within 10 days of vaccination.

However, Johnson County director of epidemiology Elizabeth Holzschuh said further investigation into the blood-clotting disorder did reveal that the vaccine was the likely cause of the condition.

Women ages 16 to 50 may be advised by their doctor to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, LeMaster said.

Appointment slots going unused

This week, JCDHE has extended its clinic walk-in hours to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Appointments are still available as well and can be scheduled here. 

Holzschuh said there are several appointments available throughout the county even beyond JCDHE and a lot of appointments are going unused.