A rare blood clot condition has affected six people across the country out 6.8 million who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in his media briefing Tuesday, April 13, that all six were women between the ages of 18 and 48 and the clots occurred six to 13 days after receiving the vaccine.

According to the New York Times, one woman died and a second woman has been hospitalized in critical condition. Shah said Maine CDC is not aware of any cases of blood clots in the state after administering over 51,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Because of the six cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine today. The pause, Shah said, is to give the health care community time to become aware of the situation.

An expert advisory committee is evaluating the cases and will meet tomorrow, and until the review is complete, he said, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on hold.

Shah said the blood clots were seen in individuals with low platelet counts after receiving the vaccine. The standard treatment of heparin, he said, “might actually be dangerous,” and added that a different type of treatment may be necessary.

The news raises concerns and questions, especially for people who have recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. For those people, Shah said it is normal to experience flu-like symptoms, fatigue and body aches. It is not normal, however, to have a severe headache, abdominal or leg pain six to 13 days after receiving the vaccine, and recommended people contact their health care provider if they have those symptoms.

Gov. Janet Mills said because of the news today, the mobile vaccination unit, which began administering doses yesterday at the Oxford Casino, had to cancel morning appointments today.

Maine General was able to redirect 550 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the mobile unit to cover existing appointments in the afternoon and through Wednesday, she said.

Shah said additional doses will be drawn from facilities across the state to cover appointments Thursday and Friday. In this manner, he said, it will balance the load so no facility is overwhelmed with lack of supply. Shah said the intention is to minimize cancellations when taking supplies from one facility to give to the mobile unit.

“So we pivot today," Mills said, "especially in terms of the mobile vaccination clinic.”

Switching to the Moderna vaccine at the mobile unit now creates a logistical puzzle because it requires two doses, while the J&J vaccine requires only one. Shah referred to it as a challenge, and added, "We have to make sure we can give the second shot 28 days later."

Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services said she expects the increases in Moderna and Pfizer doses to "keep us on track."

For the time being, the Johnson & Johnson doses will be stored, Shah said. "I'm not worried about them spoiling on a shelf," he added.

The mobile clinic will remain in Oxford through Friday, April 16, then it will travel to Windham, Biddeford, Fryeburg, Turner, Waterville, Old Town, Milbridge, Calais, Madawaska and Auburn over the next two months, according to Mills. To get an appointment, call the community vaccination hotline at 888-445-4111.

In vaccinations, as of this morning 906,713 shots of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, with 520,000 first doses and 386,624 second or final dose.

"More than one out of three eligible to be vaccinated have gotten the shots they need," Shah said, "46% have at least their first dose."

Two more people have died with COVID-19. Two women, both in their 80s and both from Oxford County, recently died because of the virus. A total of 753 people across the state have died with the disease since the pandemic began.

Shah said the Maine CDC is reporting 571 new cases, adding that not all were within a 24-hour period. Since April 12 there have been 51 new cases, 149 are from April 11, 166 from April 10, and 205 from April 205.

Currently 96 people across the state are hospitalized, 36 are in intensive care units and 13 are on ventilators.

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