CDC Panel Recommends Restarting Johnson & Johnson Vaccines After Pause

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “CDC Panel Recommends Restarting Johnson & Johnson Vaccines After Pause” – below is their description.

    A panel of medical experts reaffirmed their support for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, setting the stage for regulators to allow use of the shot to resume.

    The action by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices opens the way for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to lift a pause on the shot’s use. Regulators put dosing with the vaccine on hold 10 days ago to gather more information following reports of the side effect.

    The agencies could decide to resume use of the vaccine as soon as Friday evening.

    More than than 8 million Americans have been given J&J’s vaccine. The panel reviewed evidence from 15 people who suffered the rare side effect after receiving the shot. Three died, while seven remain hospitalized and five were discharged.

    All 15 cases of clotting were observed in women, with 13 under the age of 50, according to the presentation. Meanwhile, 12 of the 15 cases involved rare brain blood clots. As of April 21, about 4 million women in the U.S. had received the J&J vaccine.

    Health officials have been under pressure to make a determination on the vaccine and end the pause. One panelist, Wilbur Chen, said earlier this week that he wants to see use of J&J’s shot resume, though exactly how will depend on the data shared during the meeting.

    “I don’t want to have it sit on the shelf for any longer,” said Chen, who’s also a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

    CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday that many people would still want a J&J shot. Unlike two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., J&J’s coronavirus vaccine requires a single shot and can be kept in refrigerators, making it a preferred tool for those who interact less frequently with the health system, or live in hard-to-reach places.

    “I do think that there’s plenty of people who are interested in the J&J vaccine if just for convenience as well as for a single-dose option,” Walensky said.

    The agency has been doing risk-benefit analysis, she said, including looking at who would prefer the J&J vaccine or wouldn’t be able to access others. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration “feel strongly that we need to act swiftly after that analysis,” Walensky said.

    Panelists wrestled with whether the benefits of J&J’s vaccine — preventing hospitalization and death — outweigh the risk of developing a clot. One of the most commonly cited concerns about keeping J&J’s vaccine sidelined was the disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities, including the homeless. Many state and local health departments were using J&J’s vaccine, which requires only one dose and is easier to store than other available Covid-19 vaccines, to reach these groups.

    While the cases reviewed Friday suggest the blood clots are most common in young women, panelists warned the clots may still occur in men. One man in J&J’s clinical trial developed a clot. And two of the 15 cases recorded thus far occurred in women over 50, raising the possibility that the syndrome can also appear in older people.

    European Union regulators have already decided to move forward with J&J’s vaccine, and Friday issued an analysis showing that the benefits of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine, also linked to clotting, outweigh its risks. The European Medicines Agency said the blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect of J&J’s vaccine so doctors and people who receive it can be aware of the symptoms.

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