Public Health Clears Use Of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After Some Experience

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Thursday that the problems experienced by 11 people after getting the Johnson & Johnson or Janssen COVID vaccine at Dick’s Sporting Goods park on Wednesday did not indicate problems with the vaccine.

“I reviewed the reports of each of the individuals that was feeling unwell. There were stories of people who had needle phobia, of people with a history of anxiety, others who were just feeling very lightheaded and fainted while sitting in their car after vaccination,” said the CDPHE’s chief medical officer Dr. Eric France.

“My conclusion is that the reactions we were seeing were based on people undergoing a vaccine, some anxiety and nervousness from it. The pain associated from it causing some anxiety,” explained Dr. France. “These were real reactions. I don’t think it represents that the vaccines themselves are at fault or a failure. I think they’re safe and it’s important that we all get vaccinated with whatever vaccine we can as soon as possible.”

It means remaining doses that were properly stored will be allowed to be used. A total of 640 people were turned away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park site Wednesday after 11 people had reactions. Two were transported to an emergency room but later released said Centura Health, which ran the vaccination site.

“The adverse reactions that we saw yesterday were quite mild. Most people felt much better just after some observation and some rest,” said Centura Health’s Dr. Shauna Gulley, senior vice president and chief clinical officer.

At the same site on Monday, 4 people experienced adverse side effects from the Janssen COVID vaccine and on Tuesday, 8 people experienced adverse side effects. None of those people were taken to the hospital.

“After we made the decision to temporarily pause vaccinating yesterday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, we sequestered those vaccines in partnership with the state so that we can do a full investigation,” said Dr. Gulley.

The state contacted the federal government, which keeps a vaccine database for problems and reactions.

“We shared those lot numbers with the CDC and the FDA,” said Dr. France. “They reviewed in their data systems adverse event reporting to see if these lots tended to show up more and they did not. So we’ve been using those lots of vaccines today for people in Colorado and I imagine those same lots are in use across the country for vaccination programs.”

The same lots were not in use at Ball Arena Thursday as vaccinations with the Janssen COVID vaccine continued. People getting the vaccine seemed undisturbed.

“When I got here she said it was Johnson & Johnson so just one dose I was like, ‘Yeah!’” said Himannhu Goel. “The majority of the people are fine so why not? I mean it’s probably better than spreading COVID I guess.”

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also in use for a second day at The Ranch, a mass vaccination site in Larimer County.

“We haven’t seen anything out of line with what we’ve been doing with Moderna the last couple of weeks,” said FEMA spokesperson Julie Brooks. “We have had people transported on the days we were offering Moderna and we have had people transported during days we were offering Johnson & Johnson… Occasionally we get somebody who comes through who has a bad reaction due to the heat, due to the needle, due to the vaccine, it’s hard to say.”

Wednesday, the site had a high number of no-shows after email problems meant many people didn’t get confirmation of their appointments. The problem was solved by Thursday, but it’s possible some people still had not seen their confirmation emails. And news of the adverse reactions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Wednesday had gotten around. There were a high number of no-shows through much of the day Thursday as well.

“It’s a calculation all the time,” said Brooks. “With our previous vaccination appointments, we were only looking at a 2% to 3% no show rate which is easy to account for. But when you have 15% to 20% of 2,500 people not showing up, it’s obviously a greater difference.”

Another vaccine event in North Carolina was halted Thursday after some people reported adverse reactions to the Janssen vaccine. But the CDPHE says the lot numbers were different from those used at Dick’s.

Centura Health will continue to operate other mass vaccination sites in Colorado that include The World Arena in Colorado Springs and the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo where the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was scheduled to be administered. A Centura spokesperson could not say Thursday night whether the vaccines that were leftover from the event at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park would be used over the weekend at events scheduled for the two sites.

The CDPHE says there have been 10 previous reactions at community vaccine sites before this incident, according to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. The CDC and FDA both manage the system.

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