A vial of SARS-CoV2 COVID-19 vaccine in a medical research laboratory

Long-term care pharmacies have stopped using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and are awaiting further instruction from federal health officials, who recommended the halt while they investigate six reports of rare and serious blood clots in people who received it. 

Major pharmacies tried to soothe worries after the news broke Tuesday, while one pharmacy association official predicted the interruption could be minimal and resolved this week.

A CVS/Omnicare spokesperson said its long-term care clinics affiliated with the federal program should not be affected because they do not use the J&J vaccine.

The next few days will be vital to determining the next course of action. Federal health officials will hold an emergency meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Wednesday to further review these cases and assess potential implications on vaccine policy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration issued the alert on Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution.” The adverse reactions involved a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in vaccine recipients ranging in age from 18 to 48.

The reaction is only known to have occurred in six women among the 6.8 million doses administered worldwide so far.

The temporary action “is important, in part, to ensure that the healthcare provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” FDA and CDC officials stated.

For long-term care, the announcement means that vaccinations are “essentially halted,” according to David Gifford, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association. 

“Providers can work with their local pharmacies to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines if they are able to secure it from their state, but we desperately need federal and state public health officials to allocate more of these vaccines to our settings. Without swift action to replace these vaccines, we could see tragic consequences,” an AHCA spokeswoman said late Tuesday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for CVS Health and Omnicare told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News late Tuesday that it has implemented a pause in the use of the vaccine. The company’s next steps “will be determined by recommendations from the CDC and FDA.” 

The company added that it does not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at its long-term care clinics in the federal pharmacy partnership program, meaning “today’s federal guidance will not impact the completion of those efforts.” 

T.J. Griffin, chief pharmacy officer for PharMerica, said the company canceled its vaccination clinics utilizing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, “pending further instructions from CDC and FDA.” 

“If the recommended pause is extended, we will move quickly to secure doses of the Moderna and/or Pfizer vaccines in order to ensure our long-term care patients have access,” Griffin said in a statement to McKnight’s on Tuesday. 

The pause is not expected to last long and the overall impact could be minimal to long-term care, speculated Chad Worz, Pharma, chief executive officer of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. 

“That will become more apparent this week,” Worz told McKnight’s

He added he doesn’t see any entities “challenging the pause until more is known in the next few days, but they could in accordance with the federal guidance that it is a provider-patient decision based on risk/benefit.” 

For additional coverage, read our sister site McKnight’s Senior Living.