The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will decide Thursday whether to halt the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, restrict its use to certain segments of the population, or continue allowing its use with no limitations.
The committee will examine data that shows the number of people contracting blood clots after taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has risen from figures in April, The Washington Post reported.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is linked to a condition recognizable by rare blood clots — known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia — in some patients who take it. The condition has been fatal in some cases.
After healthcare workers found the condition in six women, the CDC and FDA on April 13 recommended a temporary pause on the vaccine’s distribution. Around that month, 15 women had the condition, seven of whom had to be taken to the hospital. Three women died.
Public confidence in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine took a massive hit following the condition’s discovery, with a poll released that month showing that only a mere 22 percent of the population said they would take the vaccine.
According to the poll, 75 percent said they wouldn’t be willing to receive a Johnson & Johnson shot. Less than half of Americans — 46 percent — felt the vaccine was “very safe” or “somewhat safe.”
The CDC and FDA then ended the pause 10 days later, after an advisory panel in the CDC voted 10-4 to continue giving out Johnson & Johnson shots to adults. The advisory panel believed the benefits of the vaccine were greater than the risks involved.
A risk-benefit analysis of the vaccine then projected that, among a projected 9.8 million vaccine doses to be given out over the course of the following six months, only 26 cases of clotting might happen.
On Thursday, the committee will have an opportunity to revise the CDC’s position on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, if circumstances require it, considering the new data.
Nine people have died because of the blood clot condition until now, a federal official told the Post.
The committee is “certainly going to get some updates between the [April] pause and now — how many more cases are there [now] compared to before, and are there certain populations that may be at increased risk, based on age, gender and comorbidities,” a healthcare worker familiar with Thursday’s agenda told the outlet.
According to a draft agenda of the meeting on Thursday, the committee is expected to vote on updated recommendations for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s use.
The options in the committee’s hands, according to a clinician who spoke to the Post, are “get rid of it, or only use it in certain populations.”
A third option is for the CDC to give a preferential recommendation to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine over the Johnson & Johnson one, a federal official told the outlet. However, for that recommendation to come into place, it needs CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s approval.
The Post reported that, according to a copy of a Monday email from the CDC to state health departments that it accessed, the agency asked the states to “describe the predicted [impact] to your jurisdiction’s COVID-19 vaccination program if Janssen [Johnson & Johnson] were no longer recommended, or were recommended only for a subset of the population.”
“We are committed to understanding and communicating all known risks, including rare events of [the blood clot condition], and strongly support raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of this rare event,” Johnson & Johnson spokesman Jake Sargent told the Post.
According to an update this week by the FDA to its fact sheet on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, women between the ages of 30 to 49 show the highest reporting rate of the blood clots, with one case per 100,000 doses administered.
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