City responds to pause in Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

by Kate Dolan
Posted 4/15/21

COVID-19 Update - April 15. The city announced extending the FEMA-operated Center City mass vaccination clinic four weeks and shifting vaccine supply at its new FEMA clinic in North Philadelphia, the Esperanza Community Vaccination Center.

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City responds to pause in Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

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The city is responding to the pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week, extending the FEMA-operated Center City mass vaccination clinic for four weeks and shifting vaccine supply at its new FEMA clinic in North Philadelphia, the Esperanza Community Vaccination Center.

Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health stopped the use of the J&J vaccine after the FDA reported six cases of rare blood clots in people who received the vaccine.

“This will not deter us from working aggressively to get every single Philadelphia resident vaccinated,” said Mayor Jim Kenney at Tuesday’s COVID-19 update press conference, adding that those clinics administering the J&J vaccine will “pivot quickly to the other vaccines.”

The Center City clinic planned to close out the last two weeks of federal support, which was set to expire on April 26, with the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In response to the pause, the city announced that the clinic would stay open through May 26 and expects to receive 84,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine from the federal government on Monday, April 19.

Due to a stockpile of COVID-19 vaccine the city has kept to respond to shortages and potential disruptions, the clinic is expected to deliver 6,000 doses each day, the full capacity for the clinic, until more Pfizer doses arrive on April 19.

The FEMA-operated Esperanza Community Vaccination Center, which just opened last weekend in Hunting Park, closed on Tuesday after the halt to the J&J vaccine. It reopened on Wednesday and moved to administering the Pfizer vaccine. According to a press release, the clinic expects to maintain 1,000 appointments and walk-ups each day.

The Fire Department Community Clinics will be closed until at least April 19.

The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium clinics have shifted to the Moderna vaccine.

The blood clots occurred in six women between the ages of 18-48. The health department will continue to follow CDC guidance and not use the vaccine until further notice from the federal government. 

“It’s very important to put this in perspective,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley on Tuesday. “These events are extraordinarily rare. There were 6 cases out of 6.8 million doses of JJ vaccine given in the US.

“That risk is more than a thousand times lower than the risk of serious infection of COVID-19,” he said.

Dr. Farley emphasized that Pfizer and Moderna use different technology and 190 million doses of these two vaccines have been administered in the country.

“We don’t have any reason to think that this potential problem, which is potentially rare with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, has any implication for the other vaccines,” said Dr. Farley.

The J&J vaccine pause comes as the city marked a milestone this week in its vaccine roll-out, reaching one million doses of vaccine administered in Philadelphia since December. 

As of Thursday evening, 638,328 people have received a first dose of the vaccine from one of the city’s 261 providers and 432,425 have been fully vaccinated. The 46 pharmacies enrolled are now the number one source for vaccination in the city.

Daily case counts of the coronavirus are stable compared with the last two weeks according to Dr. Farley. On Thursday, 735 new cases of COVID-19 were announced bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 131,929. Nine fatalities were also announced, bringing the total number of residents who have died from COVID-19 to 3,359. In Philadelphia hospitals, 510 patients were being treated for the virus as of Thursday morning.

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