Stamford hoped to give frontline workers Johnson & Johnson shots at a Tuesday clinic. Then the feds said pause.

Stamford teachers and staff wait to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of a two-day effort to get all of them inoculated on March 6 at Stamford Hospital. The following weekend, secondary staff got the same opportunity.

Stamford teachers and staff wait to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of a two-day effort to get all of them inoculated on March 6 at Stamford Hospital. The following weekend, secondary staff got the same opportunity.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

STAMFORD — City officials had hoped about 300 frontline workers and small business employees could get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a special city-organized clinic Tuesday, just like had happened weeks earlier for Stamford educators. Then came the news that the federal government had abruptly recommended a temporary halt in administering the one-dose shot.

Stamford officials, who hadn’t been sure they would even have enough of the J&J shots, quickly pivoted to their backup plan of the two-dose Moderna vaccine.

And going forward, that’s their plan for the rest of their specialized vaccine programs.

The city Department of Health and Stamford Health, who administer the bulk of local doses through a joint venture, have used the J&J vaccine to target vulnerable, hard-to-reach, and essential populations since the one-dose shot was authorized in February. For example, most public school teachers in Stamford received the J&J vaccine through a mass vaccination clinic held mostly over two weekends in March that was organized by the school system and Stamford Health.

Now, the city is looking to schedule additional clinics to satisfy the shift to two-dose vaccines for the immediate future.

Gov. Ned Lamont, after discussions with the White House and federal health officials, said Tuesday it was expected the pause in administering the J&J vaccine would last “days, not weeks.” It was triggered by reports of six people — out of the 6.8 million who have received the J&J vaccine nationwide — developing severe blood clots. None of the cases were in Connecticut.

Hospital spokesperson Andie Jodko stressed that the temporary pause comes from an abundance of caution, rather than a pressing threat.

“Although the reported events are very rare, we will await the results of the investigation before proceeding with further use of the J&J vaccine,” she said.

Overall, J&J supply has been low in Stamford. Stamford Health officials say they have administered “less than 2,000 doses of J&J vaccine,” many at the teacher-focused vaccine clinics last month. The city Department of Health also used another 20 J&J doses to target homebound adults and people experiencing homelessness, said city spokesperson Arthur Augustyn.

All the city’s targeted programs have subsequently shifted to using the Moderna vaccine, but both initiatives will continue as planned.

Of the 84,185 doses that the city distributed as of April 7, only two percent were J&J, Mayor David Martin said at his weekly COVID livestream Tuesday evening. The vast majority of Stamford’s doses, 77 percent, were the Pfizer vaccine. Another 21 percent were Moderna.

Any individual slated to receive the J&J vaccine through Stamford Health will be either rescheduled or offered an alternative, two-dose vaccine, according to Dr. Michael Parry.

Just over 36 percent of Stamford residents have received at least a first dose of the vaccine, according to the city’s data, most at Stamford Health’s sites. So far, about 143,000 doses have been distributed in the city. More broadly, 55.3 percent of Connecticut residents have received a COVID vaccine.

Recipients have not reported adverse reactions to the vaccine, according to Augustyn and Jodko.

Stamford’s elementary school teachers had the ability to get the J&J vaccine on the weekend of March 6, followed by middle and high school teachers the following weekend. Stamford Health managed both events.

Some teachers who had met age eligibility requirements prior to those dates had been able to secure vaccines on their own.

Enough teachers reported side effects from the J&J vaccine that the plan to re-open elementary schools on March 9 was delayed until the following day.

Diane Phanos, president of the Stamford Education Association teachers union, said she immediately thought of Stamford teachers when she heard the news of the vaccine being paused on Tuesday morning.

“I sat down and said, ‘(Oh, my God), that’s what our teachers got,’” Phanos said.

Nonetheless, she said she had yet to hear from any teachers late Tuesday morning about the news, or any concerns related to it.

According to Sharon Beadle, spokesperson for the school district, the news would not have any effect on the school system, nor on the plan to re-open high schools to a full-time five-days-a-week in-person schedule, starting next week.

Before the CDC pause on vaccines, Martin floated using the J&J vaccine at a special clinic planned for small businesses and frontline workers. Martin and Economic Development Director Thomas Madden called the one-dose vaccine instrumental in reaching “hard-to-reach populations or people who may be hesitant to get the vaccine or miss their second appointment.”

Like its other specialized programs, the city pivoted to using Moderna vaccines for its small business clinic. About 300 frontline workers — mostly restaurant staff — were scheduled to get vaccinated at the special clinic Tuesday. City officials now plan to schedule additional clinics to facilitate second-dose appointments.

Even with the added challenge, the city remains undeterred in holding the scheduled small business events.

“Using a vaccine that requires two doses will require additional events, but it does not impact the city’s approach to bring the vaccine to the public and make it as easy and accessible as possible to ensure the public’s health and safety,” Augustyn said.

And despite the complete pause on J&J vaccines, hospital officials said the vaccine moratorium will have no immediate impact on its vaccine supply or future operations.

“Our current supply of J&J vaccine is limited, and the pause will not impact any operations at our vaccine clinics,” Jodko said.