An advisory committee from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discussed the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccination break during a Wednesday afternoon meeting while investigating a possible association with a small number of rare blood clots.
The emergency meeting follows Tuesday’s announcement by the Food and Drug Administration to investigate six cases of rare and severe blood clots in women aged 18 to 48, one of whom died. All of the women had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before developing the clot, although it is unclear whether the vaccine was responsible. As of Tuesday, more than seven million people in the United States had received the shot, and another 10 million cans had been shipped to the states, according to CDC data.
Following the call from federal health officials, all 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico on Tuesday quickly paused or advised vendors to stop administering the vaccine. The U.S. military, government-run vaccination centers, and a variety of private companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, and Publix, also paused the injections.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is a panel of independent experts who advise the CDC on its vaccine policy. During the meeting, the experts will review and debate data from the rare blood clots, including a seventh case, and will later hear comments from the public before a possible vote on how to proceed. You could vote to recommend, for example, that the break continue, or to indicate that it should only apply to a specific age or gender.
Federal officials said Tuesday the hiatus could only last a few days, though it depends on what officials learned from the investigation. They said the break will give officials more time to alert doctors that patients with these rare blood clots should not be given the drug heparin, the standard treatment doctors give for typical blood clots, and that they also have time to to see if there are more cases.
The worrying coagulation disorder among vaccine recipients is different – and much less common – than the typical blood clots that occur in hundreds of thousands of people each year. In addition to having clots in the brain, the seven women also had remarkably low levels of platelets, parts of the blood that help make normal clots. The panel experts discussed the known background rates of each disease in the general population, but noted that insufficient data was available to accurately estimate how often they occur simultaneously.
“At the moment we believe these events are extremely rare, but we are also not sure we have heard of all possible cases as this syndrome may not be easily identified as being associated with the vaccine,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the CDC director said at a White House press conference about the pandemic on Wednesday.
The US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy reiterated Wednesday that the break in Johnson & Johnson’s vaccinations gives public health officials a chance to investigate the cases and discuss them with health professionals. He added that breaks are common when new vaccines and drugs are introduced.
“We are only doing the necessary care to ensure that everything is safe so that we can continue our vaccination efforts,” said Dr. Murthy on “CBS This Morning”.
The committee’s assessment will be of vital importance at a time when the nation is trying to vaccinate as many people as possible to curb the steady buildup of cases, especially when worrying variants become more prominent. Some public health experts were disappointed with the FDA’s recommendation to suspend the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, arguing that preventing these extremely rare side effects was not worth the compromise of slowing the vaccination campaign and potentially increasing public confidence in vaccines Generally undermine.
What You Need To Know About The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Break In The United States
- On April 13, 2021, U.S. health officials called for an immediate halt to use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine after six recipients in the U.S. developed a rare blood clot disorder within one to three weeks of vaccination.
- All 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have temporarily suspended use of the vaccine or suspended from recommended vendors. The U.S. military, government-run vaccination centers, and a variety of private companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, and Publix, also paused the injections.
- Fewer than one in a million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations are currently being studied. If there is indeed a risk of blood clots from the vaccine – which has yet to be determined – the risk is extremely small. The risk of contracting Covid-19 in the United States is much higher.
- The hiatus could complicate the country’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are facing spikes in new cases and are trying to address vaccine hesitation.
- Johnson & Johnson has also decided to delay the launch of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns about rare blood clots, which is taking another blow to the vaccine surge in Europe. South Africa, devastated by a contagious variant of the virus found there, also stopped using the vaccine. Australia announced that it would not buy cans.
Speaking at the press conference, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, said the hiatus would not disrupt the momentum of the country’s vaccination campaign in general.
“In the short term, we expect some impact on the daily average as Johnson & Johnson locations and dates move to Moderna and Pfizer vaccines,” he said. “We have more than enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to continue or even accelerate the current rate of vaccination.”
Noah Weiland, Denise Grady and Madeleine Ngo contributed to the coverage.