NEW YORK (AP) – A government advisory panel has voted unanimously to recommend mRNA vaccines over the J&J vaccine due to concerns over rare blood clot side effects.
The strange clotting problem has caused nine confirmed deaths after J&J vaccinations — while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines don’t come with that risk and also appear to be more effective, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
It’s an unusual move and the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, must decide whether to accept the panel’s advice.
While it’s still rare, the Food and Drug Administration told health care providers this week that more cases have occurred since the spring. They occur most in women between 30 and 49 — about once for every 100,000 doses administered, the FDA said.
Overall, the government has confirmed 54 clot cases in both women and men, and nine deaths that included two men, Dr. Isaac See of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. He said two additional deaths are suspected.
More than 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, about 16 million of them with the J&J vaccine. The other two vaccines used in the U.S. — from Pfizer and Moderna — are made differently and regulators say they don’t come with this clot risk. And unlike in the spring when vaccine supplies were tight, Pfizer and Moderna shots now are plentiful in the U.S.
COVID-19 itself can cause potentially deadly blood clots. But the suspect culprit for the vaccine-related kind is a rogue immune response linked to both the J&J shot and a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca. Both of those vaccines are made similarly, using a cold virus known as an adenovirus, although AstraZeneca’s shot is not used in the U.S.
The FDA this week warned that another dose of the J&J vaccine shouldn’t be given to anyone who developed a clot following either a J&J or AstraZeneca shot.
Several other countries already have recommended age restrictions for both the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines, or that preference be given to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.