Dec 16, 2021 - Health

CDC committee recommends saying mRNA COVID vaccines 'preferred' over J&J shots

Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Covid-19 vaccine awaits administration at a vaccination clinic in Los Angeles, California.
Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Covid-19 vaccine awaits administration at a vaccination clinic in Los Angeles, California on December 15, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

A key U.S. CDC advisory committee voted Thursday to recommend calling mRNA vaccines the preferred COVID vaccine option over Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine for adults due to concerns over increase risk for blood clots.

Driving the news: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was considering new data from the Johnson & Johnson about how often a rare, but severe blood clot linked to their vaccine occurs.

The big picture: In April, the FDA temporarily halted the use of J&J's vaccine to examine cases of a rare blood clot disorder that six women developed within two weeks of receiving the shot.

What they're saying: Johnson & Johnson officials told the committee the benefits of protection against COVID still outweigh the rare risk of clots.

  • "We are confident in the durability of protection," Penny Heaton, global therapeutic area head of vaccines at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
  • She said the antibody titers peak later than mRNA vaccines, but persist longer, STAT's Helen Branswell wrote. "This durability, this may be crucial in the setting we're in in the US."

The other side: "I just have a real problem with a recommendation for anyone to get a vaccine that one per 100,000 women ages 30 to 49 years old will have a condition with a case fatality rate of 15%," Pablo Sánchez, an ACIP board member and professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University.

  • "I'm not recommending it to any of my patients' parents. I tell them to stay away from it," Sánchez said.
  • But other committee members also raised concern about keeping the J&J vaccine available as an option in the U.S.
  • "Every single day we have patients who are coming into our public health clinics saying they don't want the mRNA vaccines for a variety of reasons," said Matthew Zahn, a non-voting member of ACIP and representative of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
  • "There are people who wouldn't end up being vaccinated if the Janssen vaccine doesn't continue to be available despite the concerns being noted."
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