The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent vaccine advisory panel meets on Friday to review the latest findings on a possible rare side effect that resulted in an interruption in use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.
If the panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, decides that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the potential risk, the government will likely end the hiatus.
The meeting comes 10 days after the U.S. government recommended that vaccinations be discontinued with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, while researchers examined six reports of unusual blood clots from 6.8 million people who received it.
High-ranking federal officials said in interviews with the New York Times that they had found some additional cases of the rare blood clot but did not specify how many. They said the overall rate didn’t appear to have changed much since last week.
The committee could recommend Johnson & Johnson put up a formal warning label about the side effects, as the company has done in the European Union. About 10 million doses or more of the vaccine, which is manufactured at the company’s facility in the Netherlands, are on shelves in the United States and could be used immediately.
The meeting comes as the federal government is also investigating issues at a Baltimore factory that is slated to meet the country’s demand. Emergent BioSolutions, the operator of the facility, has manufactured tens of millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, but they cannot be distributed until regulatory agencies certify the facility.
After Emergent had to discard up to 15 million potentially contaminated doses of the vaccine last month, federal regulators conducted an inspection that found a number of problems, including the risk of other lots being contaminated.
Last week’s break followed reports from six women who developed a rare type of blood clot in the brain within three weeks of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The clots were accompanied by an unusual drop in platelets, components of the blood that normally help wounds heal.
On Thursday, Oregon health officials reported that a fatality was being investigated for a possible link to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The woman who died was in her fifties and had symptoms consistent with the blood clotting cases seen in eight other Johnson & Johnson recipients in the United States. Dr. Shimi Sharief, the chief health advisor for the state health department, said it was not known whether the woman was affected and the death was linked to the vaccine.
The CDC committee met the day after the first break, and a Johnson & Johnson representative gave details of the six cases along with two other cases. Instead of voting, the panel decided to have a second meeting the following week to give them time to better evaluate the data.
European regulators, which also looked at the shots, said Tuesday that they would allow those vaccinations to be resumed with a formal warning sign.