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NY, MA, VT, CT Follow Federal Guidance, Pause J&J Vaccine

Governor Andrew Cuomo receives the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine from Dr. Jacqueline Delmont of SOMOS Healthcare at a pop-up vaccination site in Harlem in March.
Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
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Governor Andrew Cuomo receives the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine from Dr. Jacqueline Delmont of SOMOS Healthcare at a pop-up vaccination site in Harlem in March.

New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut have paused administering the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, after the FDA and CDC recommended halting the doses because a small percentage of recipients developed blood clots. Six of the 6.8 million Americans who have already received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, all of them women, developed blood clots after receiving the doses. One died and another was hospitalized in critical condition. 

After the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the temporary halt Tuesday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York is also pausing the doses.  

“We have stopped using Johnson and Johnson in this state,” Cuomo said. 

The governor received the J&J shot in March. 

Cuomo spoke at an unrelated event at an apple orchard that was closed to the media and the public, and where he answered no questions about the vaccine delay. The Democrat says there are enough alternative doses available for state-run vaccination sites to continue.  

“We do have enough Pfizer and we do have enough Moderna to keep our schedule,” the governor said.  

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker advises anyone who did receive a J&J dose and develops a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination to contact their doctor. But Zucker says the incidence of developing blood clots after the vaccine are “extremely rare.”  

While the delay won’t affect the state’s mass vaccination sites, it will impact the state university system, which had planned on using 21,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson to vaccinate as many students as possible before the end of the spring semesters. 

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, speaking at an event in Syracuse, says the pause will affect those plans.  

“Today was a little bit of a curve ball for us, with the Johnson and Johnson vaccinations,” Malatras said.  

Malatras says SUNY is working with the state to locate alternative vaccines, including Pfizer and Moderna, and he says no one should cancel their appointments, because substitute doses have already been found in some cases.

“We liked the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, because it was one and done,” Malatras said. “It was very easy for our residential students to get one shot and then go home for the semester.”  

Malatras says if the campuses have to shift to the two-dose vaccines, the process might not be finished before the semester ends in a few weeks. He says if that happens, SUNY health officials will try to make arrangements so that students can get one or both doses at home. 

The vaccines are not mandatory, but Malatras left the door open for a vaccine requirement for students, if enough do not get vaccinated voluntarily by the end of the summer.  

The vaccination delay comes as the state continues to ramp up access to vaccine sites. Governor Cuomo announced that the state run site at SUNY Albany, which has been administering 2,000 shots a day, will be moved to the nearby Crossgates Mall beginning April 16. The vaccinations will be given in a recently closed Lord & Taylor department store, which has the capacity to give out 6,000 doses a day.  

Federal officials hope the Johnson and Johnson pause will only last for a few days. 

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