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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Montana To Follow Recommended Pause On Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
New York National Guard/Public Domain

State and local health officials in Montana are following a recommended pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. The change is causing some logistical issues.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the recommendation Tuesday after six women experienced a rare form of blood clot one to two weeks after receiving their Johnson & Johnson vaccine. According to the CDC, there have been 6.85 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the U.S.

Montana health officials say nearly 20,000 shots have been administered in Montana and there have been no reports of residents experiencing blood clots after receiving this vaccine. The state and county health officials are following the federal guidance.

"We had 600 scheduled for Thursday. We have a system that we were able to call all of our scheduled people for Johnson & Johnson. Interesting, a lot of them are changing to Pfizer," Flathead County Health Officer Joe Russell says.

Other county health departments say the change also threw a wrench in planned Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinics this week Web:, including clinics planned for Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College students who won’t be on campus long enough to receive a second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. 

A clinic at the Missoula County Fairgrounds continued with the Moderna vaccine instead. Though the pause in the J&J vaccine comes as some counties are winding down their large vaccine clinics, Gallatin County, which has the largest current outbreak, says it still has enough demand to hold large vaccine clinics.

Russell says while he agrees the pause is good in terms of being cautious, he fears it will push people on the fence away from getting the shot in the future. 

"Even if the FDA and CDC reverse themselves pretty fast, we’re gonna to have to do some pretty significant messaging to get people to want to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine."

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to examine whether there’s a link between the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and these rare blood clot cases. The committee will provide guidance on the future use of the vaccine

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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