Iowa State will not administer Johnson & Johnson vaccine at vaccination clinic


Senior Yoong Tsin Ong of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, receives his vaccination from vaccinator Kori Grooms at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at State Gym on April 2.

Kylee Haueter

Amid national pauses in the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Iowa State University said they will not be distributing that vaccine at the mass vaccination clinic slated to begin April 19.  

Iowa State originally announced in a campuswide email April 6 that they would be holding a two-week vaccination clinic to vaccinate students with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.  

With the end of the semester rapidly approaching, the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot provided an efficient way for colleges to get students vaccinated before they leave campus in May. 

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a statement urging vaccine providers to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution after a rare blood-clotting condition was discovered in six patients who received the shot. 

“As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine have been administered in the U.S. CDC, and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in the statement

All six cases were reported in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms of the clotting occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. 

One woman died and one is in critical condition.

According to the statement, the CDC and FDA are currently investigating the cases and assessing the cause and potential significance.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” the statement read. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

People who have received the vaccine and develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks of their vaccination should contact their health care provider.

Joining all other 50 states, the Iowa Department of Health advised providers to stop administering the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Iowa State is still planning on holding the mass vaccination clinic but will be administering the two-dose Pfizer vaccine instead of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  

“The volume of vaccines that we’re getting per day is likely going to change in any way, you know, I think that was part of the message that went out was, we know that variability is going to happen and it’s kind of a week-by-week basis that we find out what the supply chain looks like and then what’s available for Iowa State,” Erin Baldwin, associate vice president for student health and wellness and director of Thielen Student Health Center, said.

“But yes, we are still planning to have the mass vaccination clinics, it may just look a little different [based] on the number of doses that we’re getting from day to day,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin also said their Johnson & Johnson allocation arrived at the end of last week.  

“We’ll hold on to the Johnson & Johnson until we get direction from the CDC and the Iowa Department of Public Health. But in the meantime, what we have available right now is Pfizer vaccines, so we’ll be using Pfizer vaccine for the clinics this week, and then it looks like that’s what’s going to be available for the clinics that we do next week,” she said.

One problem that arises with using the Pfizer vaccine is the time that needs to pass between first and second doses. 

“For example, if you get vaccinated this Friday, on the 16th, you’re going to be due in 21 days, so you’re going to be due again in three weeks, and that will be on Friday, May 7,” Baldwin said. “So unfortunately, you know, that’s why we were really excited when we heard about Johnson & Johnson because it was one dose. We were really hoping, especially for our students, to be able to serve them with Johnson & Johnson so that they didn’t have to deal with getting vaccinated during finals prep week or during finals week.”

Baldwin said they will be offering the second dose of the vaccine if people can commit to getting it.

“So now it’s just presenting the information to people and saying, you know, can you commit to getting both doses of vaccine on campus? People can make that decision,” she said. 

Baldwin said they don’t have a numerical goal for how many students they’d like to see receive the vaccine. 

“I think our original goal was not necessarily a numerical goal, but it was just, we’d love to be able to have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate any student that wanted to get vaccinated before they leave campus this semester,” she said.

“If we have students that are going to be around or if they’re within driving distance or they’re willing to come back to Ames, they’re willing to get both doses on campus, and we’ll continue to push that information out and serve people that way,” Baldwin said. 

The clinic is set up in the three basketball courts on the west side of State Gym. 

“So what that will look like is that people will enter the south side of State Gym. This is the entrance that looks out towards the parking lot, towards Lincoln Way and Dunkin’ Donuts […] then you’ll come in and we’ll have different ISU employees that will be working in the vaccination site,” Baldwin said. 

Over 700 people from across the university have signed up to work at the clinic. 

“It’s been outstanding to see the support and everybody stepped up to help with that,” Baldwin said. 

“And then you’ll have our group of nonclinical volunteers, so that will be people that are assisting with wayfinding, with directing people that come into the vaccine site to the different locations,” she said. “There will be people working at registration, and then we’ll have people helping with observation after people get done with their vaccine, and then we have our clinical workers at the clinic; those are the people actually giving the vaccine.”

There will also be trained medical professionals on site if anyone would have a reaction to the vaccine or if recipients have medical questions or any other medical situation that needs to be dealt with. 

“Our vaccinators are a mix of people, including our staff from the Thielen Student Health Center. We have some of our nurses from occupational medicine on campus that are helping,” she said.

A group of Iowa State veterinarians and veterinary students will also help administer the vaccine, thanks to the PREP Act

“The PREP Act gave legislation that allowed different types of clinical professionals the ability to give vaccines in this situation,” Baldwin said.

“We really have great support from the community so Story County Public Health, and then Mary Greeley Medical Center, are both also going to provide some support for some of the clinical workers for the vaccine,” she said.

Senior liberal studies major Christina Alexander is currently an online Iowa State student living in Des Moines. 

“I am really excited to get vaccinated,” Alexander said. “I think it’s a wonderful idea to offer vaccinations to students. It’s understandable why the university chose the one-dose Johnson & Johnson […] I am holding out for Pfizer since it’s the mRNA vaccine.”

The mass vaccination clinic will begin April 19 and is planned to continue for two weeks. Students will be contacted and do not need to call Thielen to schedule an appointment.

Vaccine and clinic updates and frequently asked questions about the vaccine can be found on Iowa State’s vaccination website.