24th April, 2021
The United States has ended its 10-day pause on the use of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine, over fears of deadly blood clots.
In a statement Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration said the risk of experiencing severe blood clots and low platelets as a result of the vaccine was very low.
The agencies thus recommended the immediate resumption of the use of the vaccine.
Investigators only found 15 cases in the 8 million shots given.
“We are no longer recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a news briefing.
“Based on the in-depth analysis, there is likely an association but the risk is very low.”
Top U.S. FDA officials said the decision was effective immediately, clearing the way for shots in arms as early as Saturday.
The agency said it would warn of the risk in an updated fact sheet given to vaccine recipients and providers.
The agencies made the decision following a meeting of outside advisers to the CDC who recommended that the vaccine pause be ended.
In an analysis presented at the meeting, CDC staff said that the cases of the syndrome that they had found occurred at a rate of seven per one million doses in women under age 50, with the highest risk occurring among women ages 30 to 39.
For women over age 50 and for all men, the clots appeared at a rate of one per one million doses, the analysis showed. In all, there were three deaths, officials said.
After a day-long meeting, the CDC panel voted 10-4 that the J&J vaccine be used as recommended in people 18 years of age and older, the parameters of its current FDA authorization.
Dr. Jesse Goodman, an infectious disease expert at Georgetown University in Washington and a former chief scientist at the FDA, said the risk was not trivial, but still small.
“But we should keep it in perspective. I mean the risk of dying from a car accident in your life is something like one in 100, the risk of being struck by lightning is something like one in 15,000,” Goodman said.
Unlike the vaccines by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc , which require two doses and must be kept frozen at ultra-cold temperatures, J&J’s vaccine can be given in a single dose.
It can also be stored at regular refrigeration temperatures, making it a better option for hard-to-reach areas.