But the study doesn’t show that at all, according to the lead author.
“We didn’t find anyone with blood clots,” Dr. Eun-Ju Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said of her study of Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines. “We didn’t find any of those scary things that are happening with Johnson & Johnson.”
Among the more than 7 million people who’ve received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, at least seven have experienced very rare blood clots in the brain — one man during clinical trials and six women during the vaccine’s rollout, which has been put on pause because of the blood clot concerns.
Now Johnson & Johnson is coming under fire for stoking fear about Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines when in fact Johnson & Johnson’s shot is the only one authorized in the US with reports of blood clots.
In its media statement, Johnson & Johnson wrote there had been reports of blood clots for “all Covid-19 vaccines.”
The study by Lee and her colleagues looked at US Food and Drug Administration data of tens of millions of people who had received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and found a small number who developed low platelet levels. The study did not look for or analyze blood clots at all.
“That is a really irresponsible thing to say,” said Dr. Paul Offit, referring to the J&J media statement. Offit, a vaccine expert at the University of Pennsylvania, is a member of the FDA advisory panel that reviewed emergency use authorization applications from all three Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers.
Offit noted that the company’s statement was especially unfortunate given there are still significant numbers of people in the US who are hesitant to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
“I think Paul is right on,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who is a member of a vaccine advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “His indignation is appropriate.”
In an email to CNN, a J&J spokesman did not directly respond to questions about why the company had said there had been reports of blood clots when that is not in fact the case.
The spokesman sent a statement that says: “We continue to work closely with medical experts and global health authorities to assess the data on these extremely rare events. Above all, we are committed to the safety and well-being of the people who use our products, and we support public awareness of the signs and symptoms to ensure the correct diagnosis, appropriate treatment and expedited reporting by health care professionals.”
J&J’s April 9 media statement
In response, J&J issued the media statement that day saying that “We are aware that thromboembolic events including those with thrombocytopenia have been reported with all COVID-19 vaccines.”
“Thromboembolic events” is a medical term for blood clots.
That J&J statement included a footnote to the study by Lee and her colleagues, which looked at some adverse events reported after people received the Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
That study, published in February in the American Journal of Hematology, analyzed reports of people who had experienced low blood platelet levels — not blood clots.
“Those are entirely different entities,” said Lee, the study’s lead author. “It’s like apples and oranges.”
Different types of vaccines
Moderna and Pfizer are mRNA vaccines, and J&J is an adenovirus vector vaccine. AstraZeneca also uses an adenovirus vector platform, and it too has been linked to very small numbers of rare blood clots.
When asked about the Wall Street Journal report, the company issued a statement to CNN saying that “at Johnson & Johnson, we believe collaborative scientific exchange can lead to more robust answers to questions — particularly as it relates to the safety of patients.”
CNN’s Justin Lape and Amanda Sealy contributed to this report.