US Lifts Pause On Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Shot That Caused Three Deaths
U.S. health officials lifted an 11-day pause (initiated on April 13) on COVID-19 vaccinations using Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot on Friday, after scientific advisers decided its benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clot.
The government uncovered 15 vaccine recipients who developed a highly unusual kind of blood clot, out of nearly 8 million people given the J&J shot. All were women, most under age 50. Three died, and seven remain hospitalized.
The U.S. decision – similar to how European regulators are rolling out J&J’s shot – comes after CDC advisers earlier Friday voted 10-4 to resume vaccinations but panelists made clear that they must come with warnings about the risk. The group debated but ultimately steered clear of outright age restrictions.
The committee members all agreed the J&J vaccine “should be put back into circulation,” panel chairman Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas’ health secretary, said in an interview after the vote. “The difference was how you convey the risk … It does not absolve us from making sure that people who receive this vaccine, if they are in the risk group, that we inform them of that.”
European regulators earlier this week made a similar decision, deciding the clot risk was small enough to allow the rollout of J&J’s shot. But how Americans ultimately handle J&J’s vaccine will influence other countries that don’t have as much access to other vaccination options.
European scientists found clues that an abnormal platelet-harming immune response to AstraZeneca’s vaccine might be to blame — and if so, then doctors should avoid the most common clot treatment, a blood thinner called heparin.
That added to U.S. authorities’ urgency in pausing J&J vaccinations so they could tell doctors how to diagnose and treat these rare clots. Six patients were treated with heparin before anyone realized that might harm instead of help.
Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University closely watched Friday’s deliberations and said people should be made aware of the clotting risk but that it shouldn’t overshadow the benefits of COVID-19 protection.
“We need to treat people as adults, tell them what the information is and give them these choices,” said Goodman, a former vaccine specialist at the FDA.
Editor’s Note: We guess this means that adults get to decide whether they want to risk death from their Covid-19 shot.