Countries Pause Johnson & Johnson Vaccine over Rare Blood Clots

14.04.2021 / 15:19

European Union, US and South Africa and will temporarily stop the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid jab, after reports of rare blood clotting.

Six cases were detected in more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.

Johnson & Johnson has paused its EU rollout, which started this week.

It follows similar cases after doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which prompted curbs to its use.

Governments around the world have cautiously begun to link these rare blood clotting incidents to the vaccine because of their unusual presentation - though this link hasn't been definitively proven.

People suffering them had very low platelet counts - blood cells that normally help repair damage in the body.

The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines work in very similar ways. so in some respects it's not surprising they may cause similar side effects. And these appear to be comparably rare.

South Africa, which was the first country to administer the vaccine, has also paused its use, although no cases of blood clots have been reported in the country.

The jab became the preferred vaccine there after studies showed it had a higher protection rate against the South African variant than other jabs. Since mid-February, nearly 300,000 healthcare workers have received it.

The US FDA said it was recommending the temporary pause "out of an abundance of caution" after several cases of blood clotting. One patient is confirmed dead from blood clotting complications, and another is in a critical condition.

All six cases were in women aged between 18 and 48, with symptoms appearing six to 13 days after vaccination.

Following the advice, all federal sites in the US have stopped using the vaccine until further investigations into its safety are completed. State and private contractors are expected to follow suit.

Johnson & Johnson is a US health care company, but the vaccine was developed mainly by its pharmaceutical branch in Belgium, and is also known as Janssen. Unlike some of the other jabs, it is given as a single shot and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to distribute in hotter climates or more remote areas.

While many countries have pre-ordered millions of doses, it has only been approved in a few nations.

The World Health Organization said it was monitoring the situation and waiting for reports from the US and European regulators.

However deliveries of the vaccine to EU countries started just 24 hours before J&J said it would pause the European rollout. As it has not been administered in the EU yet, experts there will be looking to the United States to see what their next move is.

Johnson & Johnson issued a statement saying that it shared "all adverse event reports" with the health authorities.

It added: "We are aware that thromboembolic events including those with thrombocytopenia have been reported with Covid-19 vaccines. At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine."

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