Coronavirus: Health officials lift pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

WASHINGTON — A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee met Friday to discuss whether to revise recommendations around who should receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

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Update 7:19 p.m. EDT April 25: U.S. health officials lifted an 11-day pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccinations after a recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent vaccine advisory committee. Panel members said it’s critical that younger women be told about that risk so they can decide whether to choose another vaccine, The Associated Press reported.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC said they had lifted their recommended pause on the vaccine.

“We have concluded that the known and potential benefits of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “We are confident that this vaccine continues to meet our standards for safety, effectiveness and quality. We recommend people with questions about which vaccine is right for them have those discussions with their health care provider.”

Update 4:49 p.m. EDT April 25: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent vaccine advisory panel, decided that the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine outweighed the potential risk and recommended that the pause should be lifted. The motion carried by a 10-4 vote, with one abstention.

The Janssen COVID-19 is now recommended for U.S. adults 18 and older.

Update 2 p.m. EDT April 23: Health officials said Friday that they have confirmed 15 cases of rare, unusual blood clots in people who received any of the nearly 8 million doses administered nationwide of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The cases were reported in women, most of which were between the ages of 18 and 49 years old, according to officials. In all, two cases were reported in women between 18 and 29 years old, seven cases were reported in women between 30 and 39 years old, three cases were reported in women 40 to 49 years old and two cases were reported in women between 50 and 64 years old.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking to its advisers to help them evaluate the numbers and determine how big the vaccine’s risk really is — and how to balance that risk against the need to vaccinate millions against a virus that’s still infecting tens of thousands of Americans every day.

Original report: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. EDT on Friday.

Last week, officials with the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that vaccinators pause the administration of Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots following six reports of rare blood clots among the 6.8 million Americans who have received the single-dose vaccine. The cases involved women between the ages of 18 and 48 who developed clots that resembled a disorder called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, combined with low platelet counts.

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At least one vaccinated woman has died after presenting with the condition, health officials said last week. Officials said no similar clots have been reported in patients who got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

>> Related: Coronavirus: US health agencies call for pause in use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

“This is a really rare event,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said last week. “If you look at what we know so far, there have been six out of the 6.85 million doses, which is less than one in a million. So, remember, this is something that we (recommended) … out of an abundance of caution … to give us the time to take a good look at it and see if we can get further information.”

>> Related: CDC advisory committee wants more data before making recommendation on J&J vaccine

The meeting comes one day after health officials in Oregon announced that a woman in her 50s who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine died of a rare blood clot within weeks of getting her shot. It was not immediately clear whether the clot was caused by the vaccine. Authorities continue to investigate the death.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Oregon woman dies after receiving J&J vaccine, suffering blood clot

As of Thursday morning, the latest data available from the CDC, 135.7 million people nationwide have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, including 89.2 million people who have so far been fully vaccinated.

>> Related: J&J vaccine pause: What should you do if you’ve already gotten the vaccine

About 31.9 million people across the country have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Over 570,000 people have died nationwide of the viral infection.

Globally, 144.8 million COVID-19 cases have been reported, resulting in more than 3 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.