On Friday, April 23, the CDC and FDA announced they are lifting the pause on the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine after an expert committee met Friday and determined the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks.
These federal agencies paused the J&J vaccine after learning that a rare and severe type of blood clot had occurred. Of the more than 6.8 million individuals who received this vaccine, 15 individuals experienced this blood clot. All the individuals who had this incredibly rare side effect were women between the ages of 18-48. The fact sheets for providers and recipients of the vaccine have been updated to reflect this rare but possible side effect.
COVID-19 disproportionately causes severe illness, hospitalization, and death in people experiencing homelessness. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine continues to be one of the most effective ways to prevent infection. Because the J&J vaccine is the only single-dose COVID-19 vaccine currently available in the U.S. and is easier to transport and store, it offers many advantages for the Health Care for the Homeless community. Considering the information released from the FDA and CDC, we encourage HCH programs to consider the following responses:
- Resume using the J&J vaccine in your vaccine activities.
- Talk with clients about the high standards for safety that go into making vaccines. Explain why these clinical reviews are an important part of adhering to a high standard of care.
- Answer questions about possible side effects to any of the approved vaccines available for use (as with any medication). Clients with more specific questions about how any vaccine may impact them are encouraged to talk with their health care provider.
- When possible, offer multiple vaccines at vaccination events to accommodate those who may have a strong preference. Adopt color-coded paperwork and supplies to ensure the intended vaccine is administered.
- If it is not possible to offer multiple vaccines at one event, consider alternatives for making choices available to clients (e.g., staggering vaccine options at community sites; offering one vaccine at a fixed, clinical site while offering another on outreach; providing transportation to the site with desired vaccine available; etc.)
Continuing to provide vaccines to people experiencing homelessness (as well as the staff who provide them services) is a vital priority to stop the spread of COVID-19. We extend our appreciation to the entire HCH community for its continued work to save lives and provide high quality health care.