Kansas suspends use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
Pittsburg resident Charles Thompson said he would have preferred the convenience of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but went ahead and got his first shot of the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Tuesday morning that, following federal guidelines, the state was suspending distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as federal health agencies investigate reports of rare, potentially dangerous blood clots associated with it. 

“Just as important as getting vaccines into arms — is making sure those vaccines are safe,” Gov. Laura Kelly said in a press release.  

Six people nationwide, who were all women between the ages 18 and 48, have reportedly developed rare blood clots within 6 to 13 days of receiving the Johnson & Johnson shot. One has reportedly died, and one has been hospitalized in critical condition. 

“While this appears to have affected six people in the nearly seven million doses administered, out of an abundance of caution, Kansas will suspend Johnson and Johnson until the CDC and FDA clear it for use again,” Kelly said. “In the meantime, we anticipate our shipments of Pfizer and Moderna to continue and we will build on the one-third of Kansans who have already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” 

KDHE Secretary Lee Norman also commented on the Johnson & Johnson suspension, saying it likely won’t have a “big impact” on the state’s overall vaccination rate. The Associated Press reports that less than 4 percent of the vaccinations administered statewide have been the Johnson & Johnson shot.  

“I don’t think it’s going to be a huge setback because the last few weeks we talked about all the Johnson & Johnson vaccine we were supposed to be getting but for a variety of production and other reasons, it never materialized,” Norman reportedly said. 

In Pittsburg, the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas had a walk-up clinic scheduled for Tuesday that was specifically planned as an opportunity for people to get the Johnson & Johnson shot. The only change to the CHCSEK clinic on Tuesday was that those who wanted it were given their first dose of the Moderna vaccine instead. 

Charles Thompson, who lives in Pittsburg and works at Vietti Auto Body and Alignment, said he would have preferred the convenience of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but he was going ahead and getting the Moderna shot instead. 

“The Johnson & Johnson is a one-time deal, you know, Moderna you have to come back twice, but I mean it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I think that we all need to get one, so that’ll work for me.” 

Thompson added that Tuesday’s announcement was not the first news he’s heard about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that might make people question whether they should get it. Late last month, he pointed out, it emerged that millions of doses of the company’s vaccine had been contaminated during the manufacturing process. 

“Once they threw that out there that all those doses were contaminated, it kind of makes everybody leery,” Thompson said. 

Lettie Gunnels, 63, who moved to Pittsburg in the middle of the pandemic last summer from Fort Scott in order to be closer to a hospital, her doctors and her daughter, like Thompson, said she would have preferred the single-dose shot.  

Gunnels was going ahead and getting her first Moderna shot on Tuesday, though, because she felt it was what she had to do, she said. Her brother-in-law died from COVID-19, she added, although he’d already had a lot of health problems. 

“Listening to the news, reading the stories and everything, at first I thought I wasn’t going to take it at all, because I have COPD and lung problems to begin with,” Gunnels said. “My sister and everybody’s like ‘You need to take it.’ So I’m going to take it, you know, but I’m just wondering what’s the long-term effects really, because usually they test something for years, and this is like ‘Bam, we’ve got a vaccine.’” 

Despite her concerns about potential side effects of the various COVID-19 vaccines that may not yet be known or fully understood, Gunnels said she is hoping for the best. 

“I just don’t know. But I know I don’t want the Covid. I’ve been very blessed in not getting it, you know, and I’m just thankful,” she said. “I just pray and hope everything will be OK.”