CNBCDoctor on CDC advisory panel expects J&J Covid vaccine pause to eventually be lifted

April 23, 20210
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A member of a key CDC advisory panel told CNBC on Friday morning that he expects the U.S. pause on Johnson & Johnson‘s one-dose coronavirus vaccine to eventually be lifted.

Dr. Wilbur Chen spoke on “Worldwide Exchange” hours before taking part in a meeting later Friday of the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to discuss the rare, but severe, blood-clotting disorder that a few women experienced after receiving the J&J shot.

In addition to the six who developed rare but severe blood clotting issues after getting the vaccine, the CDC is looking into two more possible cases: an Oregon woman who died and a Texas woman who was hospitalized. Of the original six women, one died and one became critically ill. There’s been roughly 8 million J&J vaccine doses administered.

Concerns over the issue led the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA to temporarily halt the use of the J&J vaccine in the U.S. last week. However, when asked by CNBC’s Brian Sullivan whether he believes Americans will start receiving the J&J vaccine at some point, Chen said, “Yes.”

“I think that there is a willingness for us to use this vaccine. We did need to make an important pause to be able to look at this safety information to be able to consider the risks. But certainly, I think there’s a huge amount of evidence that the benefit greatly outweighs this risk,” said Chen, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, known as ACIP, is an outside panel of experts that makes recommendations to the CDC. It convened a meeting last week on the J&J vaccine, but postponed a decision until this week. Ultimately, it’s up to the CDC and Food and Drug Administration on what to do next.

Chen said ACIP now has better information on the blood-clotting issues upon which to base its vaccine guidance. “We will be able to get a good case count. It may not be perfect, but we don’t need to have perfect to have actionable information,” he said, adding he expects the panel to “come up with a set of recommendations that I think everybody will be happy with.”

Given the urgency of the pandemic, some people have criticized the decision to halt the J&J Covid vaccine — which only requires one dose for full immunity protection — while the investigation into blood clots took place.

Chen disagreed.

“The risk is very, very minor but until we were able to fully consider that information, we could not contextualize that to the rest of the medical community and also to the public as well,” he said. “We’ve only paused for 10 days. Hopefully that will not be harmful in the long run, but we of course want to engender that there is some confidence in system for collecting safety information.”

The other two Covid vaccines approved for emergency use in the U.S. are from Pfizer and Moderna; both of them require two shots.

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