Medical Technology

CDC Panel Backs mRNA COVID Vaccines over J&J Due to the risk of clot

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A group of experts who advise the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccine use in the United States recommended that the Pfizer and Moderna mRNACOVID-19 vaccinations be preferred over the Johnson & Johnson (J&J), shot for all adults. The J&J shot is a possibility of a rare but potentially fatal adverse reaction that causes bleeding and blood clots in the brain.

In an emergency meeting on Thursday the CDC’s Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously (15-0) to express that they prefer mRNA vaccines over the ones from J&J after hearing a safety update on cases of thrombosis with the thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). This condition causes large clots that drain the blood of platelets which can cause uncontrolled bleeding.

This move puts the United States in line to other wealthy countries. This risk led Denmark to eliminate the J&J shot from its vaccination program in May. A similar vaccine produced by AstraZeneca is now only available in Australia and Greece for children due to the TTS risk. To sneak the vaccine instructions into cells, both vaccines use the envelope of an Adenovirus.

On Thursday, Isaac See, MD who is a member of the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Team, said the agency had determined that TTS was likely due to the class effect, which means it is present in all Adenovirus vaccines.

TTS is very rare after TTS is very rare after a J&J shot. For every 2,000,000 doses of vaccine given to the general population, there’s about one death. That risk is higher for women aged 30 to 49 years old, increasing to approximately two deaths per million doses administered to women of this age group. It is clear that the J&J shot has saved more lives than it cost.

After the first instances of TTS, the ACIP stopped using the J&J vaccine in April. The suspension was lifted 10 days later, when a new warning was added on the label of the vaccine to inform people about the risk.

In announcing the updated safety information for the J&J vaccine today, the panel noted that the warning label had not sufficiently mitigated the risk of death from TTS. Doctors are aware of the condition since none of patients who had developed TTS were treated with the blood thinner Heparin, which can make the syndrome worse.

But patients continued to die after the label was put in place the panel observed, because TTS can develop so fast that doctors simply don’t have time to treat it.

Preferential statement

In light of that and since other, safer vaccines are available, the panel decided to make what’s called a preferential statement, which states that the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines should be preferred over the J&J vaccine.

The statement leaves the J&J vaccine available to patients who are susceptible to the possibility of a severe allergic reaction to the mRNA vaccines. It is still possible to receive the J&J vaccine after being fully informed about the risks.

In the United States, 17 million doses of J&J vaccine were administered. 900,000.000 doses were given. 54 cases of TTS were reported in the United States since August. This was just after the J&J shots. Nearly half of them were women between 30 and 49 years old.

There have been nine reported deaths due to TTS after J&J shots.

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