What to Do if You Have an Appointment for the Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine

Federal health officials are calling for a pause on use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine over concerns about six reported cases of rare and severe types of blood clots in individuals who received the J&J shot. Meanwhile, those who have already made appointments for that vaccine should consider rescheduling options that may be available to them.

Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said during a Tuesday press conference that the recommended pause is "not a mandate" and that people should talk with their individual health care provider to determine the benefits and possible risks of receiving the J&J vaccine.

"If an individual health care provider has a conversation with an individual patient and they determine that the benefit-risk for that individual patient is appropriate, we're not going to stop that provider from administering the vaccine, because it could be right in many cases that benefit-risk will be beneficial overall to that individual," Marks said.

People who are scheduled to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should not be alarmed. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said people who have appointments for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine should plan to get them, as officials have not seen reports of these types of serious blood clots for those vaccines.

For people who already received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over a month ago, Schuchat said, the risk of these health effects is low at this time.

Those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more recently should look for any symptoms that differ from the typical flu-like symptoms people might experience after they receive the vaccine. If people experience severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath, Schuchat advises them to contact their health provider and seek medical treatment.

For those who are scheduled to get the J&J shot soon, health officials are aiming to ensure everyone can receive a Moderna or Pfizer vaccination. "Our partners will be working to reschedule people who have the J&J vaccine appointment in the days ahead," Schuchat said.

The White House said in a statement that it has secured enough Pfizer and Modern doses for 300 million Americans and is now "working now with our state and federal partners to get anyone scheduled for a J&J vaccine quickly rescheduled for a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine."

NEW: White House COVID-19 response coordinator on Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause: "This announcement will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan...the United States has secured enough Pfizer and Moderna doses for 300 million Americans." https://t.co/S47XezrYxo pic.twitter.com/jw6492E3J4

— ABC News (@ABC) April 13, 2021

People who are scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine soon should check with their city or state health departments or their scheduled vaccine site for more information about their appointments and possible rescheduling.

CVS has implemented a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine according to the recommendation from the CDC and FDA. The pharmacy chain said it will be emailing all customers who have a scheduled appointment to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a CVS pharmacy, informing them that their appointment is being canceled. CVS continues to offer both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Walgreens is exercising a similar "abundance of caution" by immediately suspending the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The pharmacy chain will also be reaching out to patients who scheduled J&J appointments and rescheduling for the other vaccines, as supply allows.

Many cities and states have either canceled appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or are working to offer the two-dose vaccine options from Pfizer and Moderna instead.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said all city-run sites will stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in accordance with federal health recommendations. The mayor said the vaccine command center is coordinating new appointments for everyone who was scheduled to receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine for Tuesday and the next coming days.

"Everyone who was scheduled to come to one of our centers will get a new appointment, obviously with a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, for the foreseeable future," he said. New York City has administered 234,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the mayor said there have not been any reports of serious blood clots so far.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday morning that people with appointments at state-run sites for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be offered the Pfizer vaccine instead. "You do not need to cancel your appointment," he said on Twitter.

IMPORTANT: If you have an appointment TODAY at a State-run mass vaccination site for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you will be offered the Pfizer vaccine instead. You do NOT need to cancel your appointment.

— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 13, 2021

This includes appointments at Manhattan's Javits Center, one of the largest state-run vaccine sites.

"Following today's announcement, we are temporarily suspending the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Javits Center and offering the Pfizer vaccine to anyone with a scheduled appointment," a spokesperson for the Javits Center told Newsweek.

New Jersey and Connecticut health officials have released statements saying that the state health departments and vaccine sites will work with people scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and will administer alternate vaccines or reschedule appointments.

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said, "All New Jersey vaccination sites have been told to cancel or put on hold appointments for the J&J vaccine until further notice." The state's health department will work with all vaccine sites, as needed, to reschedule vaccination appointments, she said.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health said in a statement that it has "encouraged providers to reach out to all individuals who were scheduled to come to a J&J clinic and let them know that their appointment will need to be rescheduled once the FDA and CDC have recommended resuming administration of the J&J vaccine."

Vaccine sites in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., will also stop administering the J&J vaccine. According to The Washington Post, local governments and pharmacies are trying to swap the J&J vaccine for either Pfizer or Moderna shots at clinics and vaccine sites.

All D.C. appointments for the J&J vaccine between April 13 and 17 have been canceled, and people with those appointments will receive an invitation Wednesday evening to reschedule their appointments for later this week or next week, according to the District of Columbia Department of Health.

As a result, DC Health requests that providers temporarily pause all scheduled Johnson & Johnson appointments until further notice.

— DC Health (@_DCHealth) April 13, 2021

Los Angeles issued a statement Tuesday morning saying that it will pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until further notice at all sites throughout the city. Any previous appointments made for Tuesday will be honored with another vaccine, according to Jeff Gorell, the city's deputy mayor.

Following guidance from public health officials, our City-run vaccination program has paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Appointments at permanent sites will not be impacted.

Angelenos scheduled to receive J&J from our MOVE clinics will receive a 1st dose of Pfizer.

— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) April 13, 2021

As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S, according to the FDA. All six cases of blood clots occurred in women between 18 and 48, with symptoms appearing six to 13 days after vaccination, the agency said.

At the Tuesday morning press conference, officials said that these events appear to be "extremely rare" and that the J&J pause is expected to last "a matter of days" as health officials look into the data surrounding the clots.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on a table at a pop-up vaccination site at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on New York City's Staten Island on April 8. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images