South Africa joins US, Europe to pause Johnson & Johnson vaccine over rare blood clots
London, April 14, 2021 (AltAfrica)-U.S. federal health agencies on Tuesday recommended pausing use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine few days after six women under age 50 developed rare blood clots after receiving the shot, dealing a fresh setback to efforts to tackle the pandemic.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also dealt a similar blow when South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the suspension of the jab to investigate a similar link with blood clots.
US and South Africa’s action immediately prompted the parent company Johnson & Johnson to delay its European rollout, in a setback for global immunization campaigns.
The US has administered more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine but officials are investigating six reports of a “rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine,” the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates medicines, and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a joint statement
Out of an abundance of caution, the FDA & CDC have recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. We have more than enough Pfizer and Moderna supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of 3 million shots per day. Full statement: https://t.co/vE7ubQ0SXA— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 13, 2021
Acting U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Janet Woodcock said the agency expected the pause to be a matter of days, and was aimed at providing information to healthcare providers on how to diagnose and treat the clots.
FDA official Peter Marks said it was “plainly obvious” the Johnson & Johnson cases were “very similar” to the AstraZeneca ones. He said there had been no similar blood clot cases reported among recipients of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, which use a different technology and accounted for the vast majority of U.S. vaccinations so far.
In each of the cases, “symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” the FDA and CDC said.
But J&J’s single-dose shot and AstraZeneca’s low-cost vaccine are seen as vital weapons in the fight against a pandemic that has claimed more than three million lives.
Immunology experts echoed U.S. officials in underscoring that the risk posed by the J&J vaccine appeared extremely low.
“Even if causally linked to the vaccine: 6 cases with about 7 million doses … is not something to panic about,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said in an email, noting that the risk appears lower than that of clots from oral contraceptives.
He expressed concern that the pause could increase hesitancy to get vaccinated.
People who have received a J&J shot within the past three weeks were asked to report to their doctors if they experienced severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath.
But the White House said it was confident there would be no “significant impact” on the vaccination plan in the world’s hardest-hit country, where almost half of all adults have now received at least one dose.
Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said that a huge surplus in the supply of two other vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — meant the country could easily take up the slack.