A member of a key CDC advisory body told CNBC Friday morning that he expects the U.S. hiatus on Johnson & Johnson’s one-off coronavirus vaccine to be lifted at some point.
“I think we are ready to use this vaccine. We had to take an important pause to review this safety information to consider the risks. But I think there is a large amount of evidence that the Benefit far outweighs this risk, “said Dr. Wilbur Chen, professor in the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Chen spoke on “Worldwide Exchange” hours before attending a meeting of the Agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices late Friday to discuss the rare but serious bleeding disorder some women had after receiving the J&J shot.
In addition to the six patients who experienced rare but severe blood clotting problems after receiving the vaccine, the CDC is investigating two other possible cases: a deceased Oregon woman and a Texas woman who was hospitalized. Of the original six women, one died and one became seriously ill. Approximately 8 million J&J vaccine doses have been administered.
Concerns about the issue prompted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA to temporarily suspend use of the J&J vaccine in the U.S. last week. When asked by CNBC’s Brian Sullivan whether he believes Americans will eventually get the J&J vaccine, Chen said, “Yes.”
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, known as ACIP, is an external panel of experts that makes recommendations to the CDC. A meeting on the J&J vaccine was called last week, but a decision was postponed until this week. Ultimately, it is up to the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration what to do next.
Chen said ACIP now has better information about the blood clotting problems on which to base his vaccination instructions. “We’ll be able to get a good sample size. It might not be perfect, but we don’t have to be perfect to have actionable information,” he said, expecting the panel to “come up with a number of recommendations that I would think everyone will be happy with. “
Given the urgency of the pandemic, some people have criticized the decision to discontinue the J&J Covid vaccine – which only requires one dose for full immunity protection – while the clot screening was going on.
“The risk is very, very small, but until we could fully take into account this information we haven’t been able to contextualize this for the rest of the medical community and the public too,” he said. “We only took a 10-day break. Hopefully this will not be harmful in the long term, but of course we want to instill confidence in the system for collecting safety information.”
The other two emergency-approved Covid vaccines in the US come from Pfizer and Moderna. Both require two shots.