CDC committee reviewing J&J’s vaccine wants more data before ending pause

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Wednesday did not make a decision related to the pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine.

The panel said it would look for more information on the rare but potentially dangerous blood clot cases before voting on whether to continue to recommend pausing the use of the vaccine. The advisory panel aims to reconvene in a week to 10 days.

In a joint statement Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration and CDC recommended pausing the use of the single-dose vaccine for at least a few days to investigate after six cases of blood clots were reported. Both agencies said it was investigating unusual clots that occurred six to 13 days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts.

The CDC said it will recommend the pause until the advisory committee reviewed the cases and assessed implications. The FDA will also look at the advisory panel’s analysis as it does its own investigation, the CDC said.

Dr. Lynn Batha, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota health department, and several others spoke at the meeting in favor of extending the pause to gather more safety information.

“By having more robust information, I think we can be more confident about how we talk about the safety of this vaccine,” she told other members of the CDC advisory panel, which is considering whether to vote on a change in policy regarding the shot.

Earlier, the FDA’s deputy director for vaccine development, Doran Fink, told the CDC panel that his current thinking was that warning statements and communications from the federal agency would allow doctors to weigh risks and benefits of the vaccine.

Other panel members, however, expressed concern that extending the pause could worsen issues related to equitable access to the vaccine, which is seen as important for serving hard-to-reach communities because it can be stored in normal refrigerator temperatures and is given as one dose instead of two.

The blood clot cases in question, all in women under age 50, were reported out of 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine administered in the United States – a risk federal health officials and immunology experts said was extremely low, especially when weighed against the potential risk of COVID-19. One of the six women died and three remain hospitalized.

American health agencies are recommending that people who were given the J&J vaccine who are experiencing severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the shot contact their health care provider.

“I’d like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare. However COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority,” FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at a news conference Tuesday. “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, echoed the agencies Tuesday saying the chances of the blood clots occurring are “less than one in a million” but Americans should pay attention if they received the J&J vaccine.

Fauci added people should “pay attention” in particular to symptoms associated with the blood clots, particularly between one and three weeks after the shot.

CDC Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said for those who have received their shot at least a month ago or more, the risk of developing the clots is “very low at this time.”

Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said the J&J pause will not have a “significant impact” on the country’s vaccination plan, adding that J&J vaccines make up less than 5 percent of the recorded shots in arms in the U.S. to date.

About 76.7 million people, or 23.1% of the U.S. population, have been fully inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer Inc/ BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson, according to CDC data. 37.3% of the U.S. population or 123.9 million adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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