Maryland to resume use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine after US officials lift pause

Maryland health officials announced Saturday vaccinators in the state could begin to use their supplies of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after federal health authorities on Friday lifted an 11-day pause on that COVID-19 immunization.

Scientific advisers to the federal government decided the benefits of using Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine outweighed the low risk of rare blood clots. Officials in Maryland are following suit.


“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one of our most important tools in the ongoing fight to prevent hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19,” Dr. Jinlene Chan, the state’s deputy secretary for public health services, said in a statement. “By resuming use of this safe and effective vaccine in Maryland, we will continue to bolster our ability to stay ahead of new cases and emerging variants.”

The health department advised vaccine providers to use whatever supply of the Johnson & Johnson immunization they have on hand. However, their stock could be limited.


Federal officials previously said Johnson & Johnson’s allotment to states would depend on Gaithersburg-based vaccine maker Emergent BioSolutions receiving authorization from the FDA for its East Baltimore plant, which it still lacks.

Emergent BioSolutions suspended vaccine production at the facility at the FDA’s request during an inspection that found a series of problems, including procedural errors and environmental hazards.

A mistake at the plant earlier this year led to a batch of about 15 million vaccines needing to be destroyed.

J&J’s production so far has come from Europe. But it’s unclear how the factory’s suspension will affect J & J’s pledge to provide 100 million U.S. vaccine doses by the end of May and 1 billion doses globally this year.

Federal health officials temporarily stopped use of the Johnson & Johnson shot after the government uncovered 15 vaccine recipients who developed a highly unusual kind of blood clot, out of nearly 8 million people given the J & J shot. All were women, most under age 50. Three died, and seven remain hospitalized.

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But ultimately Friday, federal health officials decided that J & J’s one-and-done vaccine is critical to fight the pandemic — and that the small clot risk could be handled with warnings to help younger women decide if they should use that shot or an alternative.

“This is not a decision the agencies reached lightly,” Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock told reporters late Friday.

In the statement released Saturday, Maryland’s health department said providers should tell patients the latest information about the potential risks of the single-shot vaccine.

But the department said it “believes that, while it is important to understand the risks of any medical therapy, the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh” the risks of the condition associated with rare blood clots.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention debated in a daylong meeting just how serious the risk really is. Panelists voted 10-4 to resume vaccinations without outright age restrictions, but made clear that the shots must come with clear warnings about the clots.

Many states had been counting on the easier-to-store, one-and-done option to also help protect hard-to-reach populations including people who are homeless or disabled.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.