Slovenia suspends use of J&J coronavirus vaccine

Ljubljana – Slovenia on Wednesday suspended the use of the single-shot coronavirus vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson after a twenty-year-old woman died within a fortnight after receiving the shot, Health Minister Janez Poklukar announced.

The move was proposed by the special advisory group for vaccination at the National Institute of Public Health and the suspension will be in place until all the circumstances of the woman’s death have been cleared up, according to Poklukar.

Bojana Beović, the head of the advisory group, said it would take at least a week to investigate the death.

Unlike in several other countries, where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (also known as the Janssen vaccine) is administered only to older patients, it was available to anyone over the age of 18 in Slovenia, with the exception of pregnant women.

Indeed, the vaccine surged in popularity in recent weeks after the government decided that those vaccinated qualify for the Covid pass, which is now mandatory for almost all services, the next day after receiving the shot.

This provided the fastest way to get the coveted Covid pass; for all other vaccines, the Covid pass took effect after the second dose.

Beović said this was not recommended by the advisory group, while Poklukar said the decision was motivated by the desire that the rules are the same for all vaccines.

A total of 120,000 Slovenian have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and just yesterday the government announced it was buying another 100,000 doses from Hungary to meet the high demand.

The 20-year-old’s death due to brain haemorrhaging and blood clots is the second reported case of serious adverse effects concerning coronavirus vaccines in Slovenia. Another young woman had serious adverse effects but recovered.

Poklukar was quick to point out that there have been only two serious cases among the almost million vaccinated Slovenians, whereas nearly 4,900 people with Covid had died, of which almost a hundred in September alone.

“I have to emphasise that we have so far vaccinated 120,000 people with the Janssen vaccine and that the benefits of vaccination outweigh potential risks,” he said.

The Johnson & Johnson jab is one of two vector-based vaccines that has been used in Slovenia. Beović said it might make sense to consider no longer providing the AstraZeneca jab and focusing only on the mRNA vaccines.