Governor calls vaccine pause “sudden and surprising”


DES MOINES – Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called Tuesday’s temporary suspension of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines “sudden and surprising” at her weekly press conference from Des Moines.

Reynolds said no cases of the rare blood clotting events have been detected in Iowa, but the pause in usage will be manageable

“Yesterday the FDA and CDC made a sudden and surprising recommending the administration of the J&J vaccination be paused,” she said.

“This was a surprising setback at a time when our vaccine efforts are showing progress. And because states weren’t informed in advance of the announcement, we were left to develop contingency plans in the moment for vaccine clinics scheduled yesterday and throughout the week.”

Lee County Health Department administrator Michele Ross said all J&J clinics were canceled in Lee County including an open clinic set for this Saturday at the Old Iowa State Penitentiary grounds. That clinic has been rescheduled for next Saturday morning using Moderna’s two-shot vaccinations. Those getting the shot next Saturday, April 24, between 8 a.m. and noon, will be scheduled for the follow-up vaccine May 22 at the same time and location.

Reynolds said the state is working to allocate additional vaccine where it’s needed and asked for Iowans’ patience as those plans develop.

A slow down in manufacturing had Iowa’s projected weekly allocation for the Johnson & Johnson doses this week at just 5,400, down substantially from the 45,800 the state received last week. Next week’s allocation was just 1,800, Reynolds said.

But additional Modern and Pfizer doses are being shipped out to help minimize the impact on scheduled clinics.

“The immediate impact of this decision on our vaccine supply should be manageable. While news of a serious reaction is concerning, it’s important we don’t jump to conclusions prematurely before more details are known. Nearly 7 million doses were administered in the United States and at this time we’re aware of only six cases of this rare blood clot. Currently the odds of this reaction happening are literally 1 in 1 million,” Reynolds said.

“Putting even one vaccine on hold is disappointing especially as we’re approaching nearly 2 million being administered in Iowa, but ensuring a safe vaccinations process, one that everyone can be confident in, will remain a top priority in Iowa.”

The state is also seeing an uptick in the number of cases among children. One pool reporter said the state has seen more than 3,000 new cases in children in the past week.

Reynolds said health officials are continuing to monitor that data, as well as hospitalization rates and long-term care facility rates, which she said are stable.

“We continue to monitor like we normally we do. The effects on children are less than it is on our older population and we’ve known that from the beginning. But we’ll continue to watch especially with the new variant – we’re seeing cases of that in Iowa and across the country.”

Lee County has had eight new cases in the past seven days, according to the state’s tracking site. The county’s 7-day positivity rate is at 2%. The state’s positivity rate stands at 4.7%.

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