Citing risk of clotting, US expert panel votes for the use of Moderna, Pfizer vaccines, over J&J

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Dec 17, 2021, 07:38 AM(IST)

The recommendation steers the public away from J&J's drug, which initially won praise in part because it could be stored at room temperature and performed well against earlier strains of the Coronavirus after just one shot. Photograph:( WION Web Team )

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In its discussion of risks and benefits, the CDC also said that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines carry risks, primarily for younger men who may in very rare cases develop myocarditis or pericarditis -- inflammation of or around the heart

On Thursday, a panel of US government-appointed medical experts unanimously recommended Pfizer's and Moderna's mRNA Covid vaccines over Johnson & Johnson's due to its weaker protection and greater risks. 

There was a 15-0 vote in favour of the new guidance, which applies to everyone over the age of 18.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), signed off on the measure Thursday evening. "Today's updated recommendation emphasizes CDC's commitment to provide real-time scientific information to the public," she said in a statement, encouraging American citizens to get vaccinated and get coronavirus booster shots.

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The recommendation steers the public away from J&J's drug, which initially won praise in part because it could be stored at room temperature and performed well against earlier strains of the Coronavirus after just one shot.

However, it was later linked to clotting, especially among women of childbearing age, which led authorities to temporarily suspend its use then resume it in April. Since then, it has remained a distant third choice of vaccination among Americans.

It was discovered this week that this clotting effect is more prevalent than initially thought, and not necessarily restricted to females.

Additionally, preliminary laboratory testing indicates that the jab provides little protection against the new Omicron variant -- at least against infection. 

Also read | Omicron: UK reports over 88,000 Covid cases, highest daily since pandemic began

CDC called the vote after new safety data raised concerns. 

According to new data released by the CDC, nine people have died so far because of low platelet counts or Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS), with around 16 million doses of vaccine administered.

As of August 31, there were 54 cases, 36 of which required intensive care. The survivors had long-term effects such as paralysis in some cases.

Women aged 30-49 were at the greatest risk, where TTS occurred at around a rate of one in 100,000.

The risk, however, isn't limited to women, with two of the nine deaths occurring among men. Additionally, the CDC said the death toll may be underestimated. 

Also read | Covid vaccines likely to be less effective against Omicron variant: WHO

TTS has caused fatalities in about one out of seven cases. 

CDC scientist Sara Oliver told a committee of independent experts, they had several choices, including recommending not to use the vaccine altogether. 

The panel of experts agreed, however, that the J&J vaccine should remain available for people who, for whatever reasons, may refuse mRNA vaccines, despite their higher efficacy and lower risks. 

In its discussion of risks and benefits, the CDC also said that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines carry risks, primarily for younger men who may in very rare cases develop myocarditis or pericarditis -- inflammation of or around the heart. 

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No fatalities have been reported from these cases, and the two vaccines offer a much greater level of protection than the J&J shot.

"The Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is a life saving tool for individuals in high risk populations," Penny Heaton, global therapeutic area head of vaccines at J&J argued.

The panel agrees with the company that recommending against the J&J shot completely would send an undesirable message to other areas of the world where the jab may be the only option. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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