Navigating COVID-19

Updated as of April 13, 2021

The CDC and the FDA recommended a pause to the administration of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine. This pause, in their own words, was issued out of an abundance of caution. Out of the more than 6.8 million doses that have been administered, they have identified six cases of what is believed to be a rare but serious adverse reaction to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In response to the new guidance, Riverside Health System will pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine effective immediately. Anyone scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will either receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in its place or will be rescheduled, depending on availability.

Today’s development should reassure us that the CDC and FDA are diligently monitoring the safety of each vaccine. Serious adverse reactions to vaccines are rare but should be thoroughly investigated and we support the decision to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine until more information is available. 

To learn more, visit the CDC.

While the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is on pause, the VDH pulled together a handy fact sheet. It is offered in English, Spanish, and Arabic for your convenience. 

I have an appointment to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that’s already scheduled. Should I cancel?
All Riverside vaccine clinics will be administering Pfizer or Moderna.

The upcoming 4/17 Riverside vaccine clinic at Riverside Williamsburg Family Medicine was scheduled to administer J&J and the clinic is being rescheduled..  Riverside is contacting everyone scheduled for this clinic and rescheduling them for an upcoming Pfizer clinic.  Contact will be made through MyChart, email, text or phone.   You can also call 757-534-5050 to reschedule.

How do I cancel my Pfizer or Moderna vaccine with Riverside Health System? 
If you have a MyChart account, please go to “Visits” in the menu above, find your vaccine appointment, and then click on the “Cancel” or “Reschedule” link.

If you do not have a Riverside MyChart account, you can set one up here.  Once your account is active you can reschedule or cancel your vaccine appointment by going to “Visits” in the menu above, find your vaccine appointment, and then click on the “Cancel” or “Reschedule” link.

If you cannot reschedule or cancel online, you can call 757-534-5050.

What if I wanted a single dose instead of two doses? Should I wait until the ‘pause’ is lifted?
No. While there is currently more than one vaccine brand available, local health departments, healthcare providers, pharmacies, and clinics will likely have only one brand. Vaccine supplies are limited, and you should take whichever COVID-19 vaccine is available to you.

When will Johnson & Johnson vaccines be available again?
The CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Wednesday to review the cases of blood clots and assess their significance. The FDA will review that group’s findings. It’s not yet clear how long that review will take.

I’m not concerned – can I get the shot anyway?
The pause is a recommendation, not a mandate, but the state of Virginia is following CDC and FDA guidance to pause the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. At this time it is unavailable.

Why should I trust the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?
All vaccines carry minor side effects, but clinical trials along with FDA approval confirm the safety and efficacy. The latest data shows the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to be above 90% in efficacy, which is almost double the flu vaccine annually. The safety data has been evaluated by the FDA and was a critical piece of their decision to move forward with Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Additionally, the vaccines are being continually monitored for any additional side effects and overall safety. That said, we are confident in the safety and efficacy of both vaccines for our community and encourage everyone 16 and older to receive it.

I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine already. What should I do? Should I be worried? 
We are waiting for more information from the Centers for Disease Control, but what we know right now is that a very small number of patients who received that vaccine developed a condition where the number of platelets (some of the clotting cells in the blood) became low, and then, paradoxically, they developed blood clots. In these rare cases, the clotting disorder occurred within a couple of weeks of getting the vaccine.

If you received the vaccine more than 3 weeks ago, your risk appears to be very low. If you received the vaccine within the last 2-3 weeks, your risk is also very low, but we would advise you to exercise reasonable caution and let your doctor know about any unusual bruising, bleeding, severe headache, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, or arm or leg pain or swelling. If you have questions, you can also call Riverside nurse at 757-595-6363 (or 1-800-675-6368). If you experience an emergency, please do not delay care and call 911.

Why was this not caught in the FDA approval process?
This temporary pause was issued out of an abundance of caution. To date, there have only been six reported U.S. cases of a rare reaction in individuals after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but it is very common in all vaccines that additional symptoms are reported as it’s introduced to larger communities. As the CDC and FDA review the cases and assess their significance, Riverside Health System will continue to adhere to their guidance and update as appropriate.