The Defense Department was already scrambling to fill a hole in its planned vaccine distribution after news broke early this month that millions of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines had failed quality tests. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has called for a pause in administering that version of the vaccine at all, after linking a rare but dangerous blood clot to the inoculation.
DoD had been sending its Johnson & Johnson doses primarily to troops and families deployed or stationed overseas, as the single-shot vaccination helped speed the process in areas where vaccine options are limited or non-existent.
“The safety of our force and their families is a top priority for the Department,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement announcing that DoD would follow FDA recommendations and stop administering Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. “We are communicating this pause to our military health facilities and are reviewing our global vaccine distribution to address this issue and ensure we can continue to provide vaccines to our DoD population at home and abroad.”
The move comes at a time when the Pentagon has touted its comparatively high overseas vaccination rate, 10 percent to 15 percent more than at home.
“At this time, we do not know how long the pause will last,” Kirby said. “We will continue to communicate to the force as we learn more.”
The Pentagon has not been centrally tracking take rates for the vaccine, but the Marine Corps told CNN that nearly 40 percent of its force has declined to be vaccinated.
Defense officials have said that they are seeing increasingly higher rates of acceptance as time goes on, with more people making appointments after a second or third notification.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.