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CDC panel adjourns without vote on extending J&J COVID vaccine pause

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee did not vote Wednesday on whether to extend the nation’s pause on Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, after experts on the panel argued there was still insufficient data to make final recommendations in light of the serious, rare blood clotting events potentially linked to the shots. 

While the CDC’s current pause on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is not binding, the warning issued by federal health officials on Tuesday urged that vaccinations be suspended only until the panel voted on “updated recommendations” for using the vaccine. In response to the FDA and CDC advisory on the pause, all states and D.C. and Puerto Rico have opted to temporarily stop administering this vaccine.

The CDC has yet to decide on a date to resume the panel’s discussion on the topic. 

“Your input today was incredibly helpful in terms of helping inform our work over the next week,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, the agency’s designated federal officer for the advisory committee.

“To be very frank, I do not want to vote on this issue today,” Dr. Beth Bell, a member of the panel and a former top CDC infectious diseases official, told the committee. 

“I just don’t feel that was enough information to make an evidence-based decision. We won’t have all the information, but I think there are some things that we can gather relatively quickly, which all have to do with the benefit risk balance,” added Dr. Bell. 

A work group within the panel said it had discussed a range of options this week, including recommending using the vaccine only for specific groups of people or abandoning the shot altogether but concluded that they needed more data on these and other possible cases that could be reported. 

White House officials have said the pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccinations was likely to impact the nationwide vaccination campaign in “the very short term,” but have insisted supply from Pfizer and Moderna is sufficient to meet their goals. 

Ongoing trials of the single-shot vaccine have been stopped in the wake of the original pause. Rollouts abroad of the vaccine were also disrupted following the recommendation, as well as key programs launched by state and local authorities in the U.S. to use the shots to vaccinate harder-to-reach communities. 

“We are in a situation where not making a decision is tantamount to making a decision. Any extension of the pause will invariably result in the fact that the most vulnerable individuals in the United States, who were prime candidates for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, will remain vulnerable,” Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah, president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told the committee. 

Representatives of both Johnson & Johnson, Food and Drug Administration, and CDC officials made presentations to the committee, outlining a handful of new details on the cases known so far.


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