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Publix, Orlando-area COVID-19 vaccination sites modify operations as J&J use is paused

FEMA location switches to second doses only; all mobile events cancelled

Publix, Orlando-area COVID-19 vaccination sites modify operations as J&J use is paused
Publix, Orlando-area COVID-19 vaccination sites modify operations as J&J use is paused

ORLANDO, Fla. – Across Central Florida, officials at COVID-19 vaccination sites scrambled to adjust operations as federal health authorities called for a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson formula.

The move comes as six women, ages 18 to 48, reported potentially dangerous blood clots after receiving the single-dose J&J vaccine. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition, officials said.

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More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.

As the halt was ordered Tuesday, the FEMA vaccination site at Valencia College’s West Campus quickly switched to only providing second doses of Pfizer. The site shifted to Johnson & Johnson only for first doses earlier this month in order to streamline the process and get more people fully inoculated faster.

Nory Terrizzi went to that site Tuesday morning and was told Johnson & Johnson vaccines were not available.

She said despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration investigation, she would wait until the J&J formula is ready for use once again.

“Yeah I would do it. I don’t care. I’m healthy. I’m not even scared about the COVID. This is just a responsibility to get the vaccine,” Terrizzi said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s awaiting more details from the federal government on how to proceed but for now, the state will only administer Moderna and Pfizer.

“We’re going to follow that recommendation and monitor what they’re doing for the time being but I think that what they’re doing is out of an abundance of caution. I don’t think people should be worried who’ve already had it who haven’t had any effects,” DeSantis said.

He’s touted the J&J formula for months now and received it himself on Wednesday without any cameras present.

He said he didn’t experience any side effects other than pain at the injection site and he hopes the moratorium will be lifted soon.

“I’d like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare. However, COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority,” FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at a news conference. “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”

The Florida Division of Emergency Management said the halt affects homebound vaccinations, one-day mobile vaccine clinics and federally-supported sites. Before the pause was made public, 195 J&J doses were administered in Orlando Tuesday morning.

“The state is not planning to resume the use of the J & J vaccine until further guidance is received from @CDCgov &@US_FDA. Tomorrow, 4/14, all mobile vaccination events are canceled & federally-supported sites will continue to only offer second doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” the Florida Division of Emergency Management tweeted.

For the hundreds of Publix pharmacy locations performing vaccinations across the state, the portal normally opens each Wednesday at 7 a.m. to make appointments on Saturdays and Sundays for the Johnson & Johnson formula.

The super market chain wrote on Twitter that “we have suspended our program for administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

It’s unclear if the portal will open Wednesday for Moderna appointments instead.

Other health officials in the Central Florida region also reacted to the news Tuesday. Below are their unedited responses:

Publix

“Following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Publix is suspending the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at all of its pharmacy locations. Customers can visit publix.com/covidvaccine to schedule an appointment for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, if currently available in their state. The CDC and FDA have issued a joint media statement with additional information about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC and FDA, while a rare side effect, individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine should contact their health care provider if they develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination.”

Florida Department of Health in Brevard County

“We had no J&J vaccination events planned for this week.”

Florida Department of Health in Lake County

“Lake County sites are using the Pfizer vaccine, which is unaffected by this hold. We did start offering the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen at our Clermont site by request only but at this moment that has been put on hold. Appointments are still available by visiting myvaccine.fl.gov or by phone at 866-201-6909.

“We ask that residents contact their physician if they have any questions or concerns.”

Florida Department of Health in Marion County

“The Florida Department of Health in Marion County had a stand-alone vaccination event set up for this week that was scheduled to give the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We will now move forward with the Pfizer vaccine for this event instead. None of our health department sites were routinely using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

Florida Department of Health in Osceola County

“The Florida Department of Health in Osceola County provides the Pfizer vaccine at our main vaccination site at Centro Cristiano Dios De Pactos Church in Kissimmee where we have been consistently vaccinating between 900 to 1,000 individuals daily. A limited amount of Johnson and Johnson vaccine was provided to residents through a homebound program, but this program has switched to the Pfizer vaccine with no interruption to the homebound services provided.”

Florida Department of Health in Seminole County

“None of our sites this coming week, either fixed or mobile, were to give the J&J vaccine. Recently, we did receive about 500 J&J, but those were only being used for homebound visits. The use of J&J has been put on hold. Individuals who experience severe symptoms are always asked to report them. At this time there are no plans to reach out individually, but we await word from the State for any updates on messaging.”

Winn-Dixie

“Southeastern Grocers is committed to the safe and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to our customers and communities throughout the Southeast. In accordance with CDC and FDA guidelines, Southeastern Grocers has immediately suspended the administration of the Janssen one-dose vaccines in all Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie pharmacy locations, as well as off-site clinics.

“Customers who already have confirmed appointments for the Janssen vaccine will receive a text message notifying them of their appointment cancellation and they are welcome to reschedule through our online scheduling tool to receive a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, as available. We are working diligently to keep our appointment availability for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines updated in real-time as we continue to safeguard the health and well-being of our communities.

“This is a fluid situation and we will keep our communities informed as further updates, guidance and recommendations are relayed by the CDC and FDA. We ask our customers to be patient while we adjust to these evolving circumstances.”

Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton

“FEMA is committed to helping the President’s goal to ensure everyone who wants to be vaccinated can be. In alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, effective immediately FEMA will stop administering this vaccine at our pilot Community Vaccination Clinics, as well as via our Mobile Vaccine Units. We are working with our state partners to determine the path forward and find alternative vaccine options for these sites.”

Walgreens

“Following today’s recommendation from the FDA and CDC for a pause in the use of the J&J vaccine out of an abundance of caution, we are immediately suspending the administration of the J&J vaccine at our stores and off-site clinics and are awaiting further guidance. We are reaching out to patients with scheduled appointments and rescheduling vaccinations from other manufacturers, as supply allows.

“We will continue to work closely with the FDA and CDC and as always, the health and safety of our patients and customers is our highest priority.”

Walmart

“As recommended by CDC and FDA, we immediately paused administration of the J&J vaccine until the federal government completes a thorough review. If someone has an appointment and we have a different vaccine, they will receive the one available. If not, we will cancel their appointment and rebook for a later date once supply allows.”

Florida Department of Emergency Management

“Early Tuesday morning, the FDA and the CDC issued a joint statement regarding the use of the one dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The guidance stated that until the CDC and FDA can complete their investigations, all use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine should be temporarily paused.

“The state is following the guidance from the FDA and the CDC. Out of an abundance of caution, the state has temporarily paused all use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine through state vaccination efforts.

“The state will await additional guidance from the CDC and FDA before resuming any operations with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“At this time, the following state operations have been impacted:

  • Federally-supported vaccination sites,
  • Mobile one-day vaccination clinics, and
  • Homebound vaccinations.

“The state is reviewing current vaccine supply to determine how to supplement these operations with Pfizer or Moderna allocations.

“The federally-supported vaccination sites will continue to offer second doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The state canceled all 14 mobile one-day vaccination clinics for the day. These events will be rescheduled as vaccine becomes available or as the FDA issues new guidance.

“Prior to the state temporarily pausing all Johnson and Johnson operations, the following J & J doses were administered at the federally-supported vaccination sites, Tuesday, April 13:

  • Jacksonville – 8
  • Orlando – 195
  • Tampa – 70
  • Miami – 134

“As the state awaits further guidance, all Johnson and Johnson vaccines allocated for state vaccination efforts will be transported back to the nearest County Health Department and kept in storage until further notice.

“The state continues to offer the two dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at other state-supported vaccination sites. Individuals are encouraged to visit a state-supported vaccination site to receive a vaccine. A list of state-supported vaccination sites and the type of vaccine offered are available at FloridaDisaster.org/Vaccine.

“At this time, the state is continuing to coordinate with County Health Departments, local governments and health care providers to provide additional guidance as it is received from the CDC and the FDA. Additional updates will be issued as information becomes available.

“The state is also encouraging all individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and who develop adverse reactions such as severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination to contact their health care provider. Health care providers are encouraged to continue reporting all adverse reactions to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html.”

More replies will be added as they are received.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.