Resuming use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine would save hundreds of lives and result in at most a few dozen cases of rare blood clots, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis shows.
CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is holding an emergency meeting to discuss potential changes to guidance for who should get the vaccine.
CDC and the US Food and Drug Administration have paused use of the vaccine while they investigate the risk of a rare blood clotting syndrome called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. The CDC has reports of 15 cases, all in women, and 13 of them in women under the age of 50. Three have died.
The CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver presented the results of several models laying out what might happen if the vaccine is used again, including with restrictions on use in certain groups. The CDC took into consideration deaths from coronavirus and the likelihood that people would get vaccinated more quickly if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was in the mix.
“When resuming vaccination among all persons at least 18 years, we expect 26 to 45 TTS cases depending on vaccine uptake,” she said. But 600 to 1,400 deaths from Covid-19 would be prevented, and as many as 3,500 intensive care unit admissions would be prevented.
If the vaccine were restricted to people over the age of 50, three TTS cases could be expected, but between 40 and 250 Covid-19 deaths would be prevented, and as many as 1,000 people would not need treatment in the ICU.
For every million doses of vaccine given to women ages 18 to 49, 13 TTS cases can be expected, Oliver said. But 12 deaths from Covid-19 would be prevented and 127 ICU admissions would be prevented among those women if they had access to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The CDC did not consider a gender-based restriction, Oliver said, because it would be too hard to explain – even though the risk of blood clots appears to be very low among men.
“There are also benefits beyond efficacy. This vaccine is able to be shipped and stored at refrigerator temperatures, and as a single dose series, which may make it easier to reach some disproportionately affected groups,” Oliver said.
“We note that the benefits of vaccination apply to the whole population over a six month period and result from both direct and indirect effects,” she added.