RICHMOND, Va. (AP/7News) — Virginia is halting its use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine until an investigation is completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
ALSO READ: Gov. Northam, First Lady Northam receive one-shot J&J COVID-19 vaccine
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam addressed the CDC and FDA's announcement regarding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine during a Tuesday morning visit to a vaccination site in Manassas.
"Our top priority is the safety and well-being of Virginians and Americans," said Northam, acknowledging that he got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March, alongside Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam. "The number of individuals that have had these issues is a small number. And close to 7 million doses of Johnson and Johnson have been given. So we're going to rely on the guidance of the CDC and the FDA."
The vaccination site Northam visited at Metz Middle School in Manassas was supposed to be administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday, but quickly made a switch and offered Pfizer vaccines instead.
"Our team here switched over with the help of Walgreens, to the Pfizer vaccine," said Northam. "So individuals will have the Pfizer vaccine, and when they leave here they'll have an appointment to come back in three weeks and get the second dose."
Watch Northam's press conference, below.
On Tuesday morning, Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula released the following statement:
We are closely monitoring the actions by the federal government to pause all Johnson & Johnson vaccinations while it investigates an extremely rare possible side effect. In Virginia, we will cease all Johnson & Johnson vaccines until this investigation is complete. If you have an upcoming appointment for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will be contacted to reschedule that appointment.
This pause is reassuring in that it demonstrates that the systems that are in place to monitor vaccine safety are working. We look forward to a thorough review by federal health officials. Meantime, we will continue Virginia's vaccine rollout at this time with the other two authorized vaccines, developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
All of this comes after the CDC and FDA called for a pause in the use of the Johnson &Johnson vaccines to investigate reports of possible dangerous blood clots.
ALSO READ: CDC, FDA recommend 'pause' on use of single-dose for J&J vaccine over blood clot reports
The CDC and FDA and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration released a joint statement Tuesday morning stating that it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S.
"They will obviously investigate this, and if and when it is safe to return to giving Johnson and Johnson, we'll do that," said Northam. "This is something we take seriously."
At the Metz Middle School vaccination site in Manassas, those who had previously booked Johnson & Johnson appointments for Tuesday were notified that they would be getting the Pfizer vaccine instead.
About 700 doses were expected to be administered Tuesday, with another 400 planned at that location on Wednesday.
"When I heard the FDA was recommending they pull the J&J vaccine, I thought I wouldn't be getting my shot today. Being a female, being 54, I just don't want to be part of that statistic," said Denise Harrover, who said she was relieved to be getting the Pfizer vaccine instead. "I take comfort in knowing they made that decision."
Both Northam and Dr. Avula echoed that message, saying the action taken on Tuesday shows that the systems designed to monitor COVID-19 vaccines are working.
"This pause is reassuring in that it demonstrates that the systems that are in place to monitor vaccine safety are working. We look forward to a thorough review by federal health officials," said Dr. Avula.
RELATED: Virginia woman, 45, who died after J&J shot part of CDC investigation
In Arlington County, a vaccination site at the Lubber Run Community Center was supposed to administer about 1300 Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Tuesday.
Officials there also made quick adjustments, switching to the Moderna vaccine instead.
"At the end of the day, it's about being vaccinated, and I wanted to make sure I was protecting myself and others," said Ellen Brabo, who was relieved her Tuesday appointment would still be honored with a different vaccine. "They let me know I’d be getting the Moderna vaccine today, and that I’d have to return for a second dose."
The Lubber Run Community Center was supposed to be hosting a Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinic for the rest of the week.
A spokesperson said Arlington intends to honor existing appointments, utilizing Pfizer and Moderna in place of Johnson & Johnson over the next few days.
"We may need to reassess in a few days as supply is determined, but that is our current approach," she said.
In Loudoun County, approximately 2,840 people were scheduled to receive the J&J vaccine at Loudoun County’s vaccination clinic on Saturday, April 17. The Health Department there said it will replace the J&J vaccine with Pfizer vaccine for this Saturday’s clinic.
All individuals who have appointments on April 17 in Loudoun County are encouraged to keep their appointments and receive the first in a two-dose series of Pfizer vaccine. To learn more about the impact in Loudoun County, click here.
In Fairfax County, the health department said no current clinics or appointments will be affected by the Johnson & Johnson pause:
Fairfax County did not receive any J&J vaccine this week, and we were not expecting any next week. A small amount of J&J vaccine remaining from last week and allocated for this week will be substituted with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to avoid any cancellations at our Health Department sites.
To read more about Fairfax County's response to the J&J news, click here.