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Colleges cancel, postpone Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments

Many campuses counted on the one-dose vaccine to inoculate students before summer

Kent State University student Regan Raeth receives her coronavirus vaccination from Kent State nurse Kristen Barath. The university is one of several that have temporarily stopped using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while federal officials investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (Phil Long/AP)
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Several universities halted vaccine distribution efforts Tuesday after federal health officials announced they would review “extremely rare” cases of potentially dangerous blood clots in recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The cases have been reported in just six among the 6.8 million Americans who have received the vaccine. But health authorities called on clinics, hospitals and pharmacies throughout the country to temporarily stop using the drug.

The pause threatened to disrupt the plans of university leaders, many of whom had hoped to vaccinate students before summer break — which begins at some schools in early May. Some campuses turned to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it could be administered in a single dose.

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But on Tuesday, colleges throughout the country began canceling clinics and urging students to get their shots elsewhere. In some cases, like at the University of Virginia, officials said they will lean on existing supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

The State University of New York, the country’s largest university system, will pause distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and work to locate alternatives, Chancellor Jim Malatras said in a statement. Vaccine clinics at Ohio’s Kent State University will be “postponed until further notice,” leaders said Tuesday.

The majority of Ohio’s Johnson & Johnson doses had been directed to clinics at colleges and universities, said Gov. Mike DeWine (R) in a tweet. At least four on-campus student clinics throughout the state are pausing distribution this week.

Other campuses, including Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati, will move forward with the Pfizer-BioNTech drug, DeWine said.

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Other schools are largely unaffected. George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. — which plans to vaccinate faculty, staff, student employees and contract workers this week — will move forward using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, said Michael Sandler, a campus spokesman.

The University of Maryland at College Park began to distribute a limited supply of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to students this week, Spyridon Marinopoulos, director of the school’s health center, said in a message to the campus.

The FDA and CDC have called for a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine, following serious blood clotting disorders in six recipients. (Video: Joyce Koh/The Washington Post)

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As vaccine eligibility expanded in several states to include college students, campuses quickly moved to inoculate their communities. The doses became a central part of many campus reopening plans.

Some schools even plan to require vaccines for students set to return to campus in the fall, including Rutgers and Duke universities.

“The past fourteen months have been among the most difficult and exhausting in our university’s history,” Vincent E. Price, Duke’s president, said in a statement this month. “Looking ahead, we know that widespread vaccination will be the only way to facilitate a return to normal and robust campus life.”

Duke officials told students in late March they expected to receive enough doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to inoculate all undergraduate and graduate students in the Durham, N.C., area. More than 1,800 students have received the vaccination through Duke since early April, said Michael Schoenfeld, a spokesman for the campus.

Several hundred students who were scheduled to receive the one-shot vaccine this week will be offered the Moderna vaccine instead, Schoenfeld said.