The Hawaii Department of Health said Tuesday it is pausing usage of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution while federal regulators review six reports of rare, potentially dangerous blood clots.
The announcement comes after the U.S. recommended a "pause" to allow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to investigate unusual clots that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination.
“We are pausing out of an abundance of caution. Vaccine safety is of the utmost importance,” said state Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “The risk of developing a blood clot is very low. About 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered in the United States. Six people have developed blood clots.”
The blood clots, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, occurred in women ages 18 to 48, the department said. There are no reports of anyone in Hawai‘i developing blood clots after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“I still have confidence in the vaccine. These adverse events appear to be extremely rare, but this transparent and deliberate pause ensures the medical community is aware of the potential adverse events.” Char said.
Some Hawaii vaccination providers scheduled to administer Johnson & Johnson vaccinations in the coming days may offer Pfizer or Moderna instead, the department said.
The acting FDA commissioner said she expected the pause to last a matter of days.
J&J said in a statement that it was aware of the reports of blood clots, but that no link to its vaccine had been established. However, the company said late Tuesday it would delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe and pause new vaccinations in its trials that are still underway until it can update its guidance on how to proceed.
Authorities stressed they have found no sign of clot problems with the most widely used COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. — from Moderna and Pfizer.
Most people vaccinated in Hawaii have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which each require two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only needs one dose.
So far, 32% of Hawaii's population has received at least one vaccine dose.