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Despite Johnson & Johnson Pause, Virginia Vaccine Timeline Still on Track

Person getting a bandage
A woman has a bandage put on her following her vaccination at a January mass vaccination event. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Health officials say Virginia remains on track to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all people 16 and older by mid-April, even though the state is following federal guidance to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until further notice.

Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccination coordinator, says all Virginia localities will enter Phase 2 by April 18, but vaccine rollout throughout that phase will be slowed by the unavailability of the one-dose vaccine.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration called for medical providers to hold off on using the Johnson & Johnson shot, following reports of blood clotting side effects in six people, leading to one death.

Those six cases are out of nearly 7 million people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine nationwide. Avula says these side effects are extremely rare and should not discourage people from seeking the vaccine, but Virginia instituted the pause out of an abundance of caution.

“Right now, vaccine safety is of the utmost importance. If we can’t confidently have the American public believe and trust in the safety and efficacy of vaccines, that could undermine the entire effort,” Avula told reporters during a press call Tuesday.

Avula added that the Pfizer and Moderna shots are still safe and do not show any signs of causing blood clots as side effects. He says those vaccines use mRNA technology, which is different from the viral vector method in the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca shots.

Avula told reporters about 72,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were set to be administered in Virginia this week, and will no longer be used. He added that 30 vaccination events throughout the state were cancelled.

In Richmond and Henrico, about 750 people who were set to get Johnson & Johnson will instead get Pfizer of Moderna. Those impacted should still arrive at their scheduled appointment times. Specific programs to provide the one-dose vaccines to homebound individuals and older residents are being postponed.

For more information, contact the Richmond and Henrico health departments’ call center at 804-205-3501.