Health Metro Louisville

Louisville health leaders are pausing the use of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after reports of a small number of complications.

Federal officials made the recommendation to stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday morning. Six women developed blood clots after receiving the vaccine, out of nearly 7 million doses distributed in the United States since it was approved in late February.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, chief health strategist with Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness, said she had not received any reports of clotting in Louisville among those who received that vaccine. 

“That’s very encouraging. But we want to be safe and, until we know more, we will pause the use of the J&J vaccine,” she said at a news conference.

Gov. Andy Beshear said the state is also pausing distribution of the vaccine.

More than 5,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered to Louisville residents. About 900 of them went to those living in homeless encampments and corrections facilities, as well as other hard-to-reach populations. 

The chance of developing complications so far is less than one in a million, Moyer said, so she doesn’t expect any complications among local residents.  

Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer for University of Louisville Health, said people should continue getting vaccinated with the dual-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in place of Johnson & Johnson.

“Just because you have some minor setbacks does not mean that you step back against everything we’re doing,” he said. “Because it is better for us, it is better for you, it is better for your family and your community if you get the vaccine, and that we get through the COVID pandemic.”

Louisville health officials said there are thousands of upcoming appointments available at sites administering Pfizer and Moderna vaccines throughout the city. A list of vaccination sites and how to register can be found here.

Weekly COVID-19 Cases Increase Slightly

Moyer reported 635 new COVID-19 cases in Louisville from last week, up from 604 the previous week.

It’s the first time in three months that cases increased week-over-week. Moyer said the uptick could be due to recent spring break trips.

There are 35 known cases in Louisville of the COVID-19 variant that originated in the United Kingdom. The first case of the P1 variant, also known as the Brazilian variant, was reported over the weekend. The P1 variant is more prevalent in states such as Florida, where many local residents vacation, so Moyer said more cases could be detected in Louisville in the coming weeks.

There were three recent deaths, as well as 48 from previous months that were verified by the state’s auditing process, according to Louisville Metro’s COVID-19 dashboard. Louisville’s death toll from COVID-19 is 1,058. 

“Only four deaths occurred in April so far, which is just another reminder of how safe and efficacious our vaccines really are,” Moyer said.

More than 298,000 Louisville residents, or 38.9% of the population, have received at least a first dose of a vaccine. Nearly 175,000 have completed a vaccine series.

Smith said the new mass vaccination site at Cardinal Stadium distributed 3,000 doses during its first day of operation on Monday. The site can administer up to 4,000 vaccines a day, and appointments can be scheduled here or by calling 502-681-1435.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.