Walmart resumes Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccinations

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Walmart announced Tuesday that it will resume administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in its stores and clubs, following the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday, April 23, with recommendation from the independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), to lift the pause of the J&J vaccine after a thorough safety review.

The CDC and FDA had put a hold on administering the vaccine on April 12, following six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. According to the agencies, “A review of all available data at this time shows that the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks. However, women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event and that there are other COVID-19 vaccine options available for which this risk has not been seen.”

Related: Walmart takes aim at COVID in underserved, vulnerable communities

With the pause lifted, Walmart will once again be administering the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine based on supply.

“The extensive safety system that we have in place to monitor events following vaccinations continues to function well,” noted Lisa Smith, senior director, clinical excellence, Health & Wellness, Walmart U.S., in a blog post on Tuesday. “Experts at CDC and FDA gathered and reviewed all available data on the reported events possibly related to the J&J vaccine and concluded that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. The risk of the specific health condition characterized by low platelets and unusual blood clots is considered very low. Also, health care providers administering the vaccine have additional information about the condition — how to identify and treat, for example — so our safety monitoring system has been further enhanced. This is good news: We should have even more confidence in the safety of the vaccines, and an effective vaccine can resume administration, which will boost our efforts to end the epidemic.”

Related: Walmart, CVS, Walgreens participate in COVID-19 vaccine PSAs

Since beginning vaccinations with all three approved and available vaccines — including the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines —at Walmart in December, the retail giant is now administering vaccines in more than 3,800 stores and clubs across 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

The CDC reports that 95.9 million Americans have been fully vaccinated (28.9% of the population), while an additional 141 million have received at least one dose of the two-dose COVID vaccines (42.5% of the population).

Walmart said it can deliver up to 13 million doses of COVID vaccines per month at full capacity, depending on government allocations and manufacturer supply. Ninety percent of the country lives within 10 miles of a Walmart, and many rural and underserved communities are particularly reliant on the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s stores.

In late February, Walmart embarked on COVID immunization events at 43 locations in 18 states. The company said the events build on its vaccination program at over 1,400 pharmacies in 35 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., in partnership with federal and state governments.

“We have two goals as we administer vaccines: first, to reach as many people as possible to enable reopening efforts, and second, to ensure equitable vaccine distribution across the communities we serve,” according to Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of health and wellness at Walmart. “We have focused most of our events in medically underserved neighborhoods, and we are proud to play a part in increasing access to the vaccine in these communities.”

As of Monday morning, the CDC reports that 95.9 million Americans have been fully vaccinated (28.9% of the population), while an additional 141 million have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines (42.5% of the population).

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