US decision to pause J&J jabs is another blow to global Covid fight
Analysis: rare side-effects mean that confidence in both the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines is now shaken
The call in the US for a pause in the use of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine is another blow to hopes of vaccinating the whole world as fast as possible.
Health agencies recommended that US states pause use of the jab while investigations take place into six cases of women who have experienced rare blood clotting events combined with low platelets in the days following vaccination.
J&J announced it would also “proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe”, where the European Medicines Agency was already reviewing the US reports.
The six cases in the US – from 6.8m doses of J&J vaccine administered – seem to be similar to those that have caused alarm across Europe, linked to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Some countries have suspended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine while others have imposed age limits. In France, it will not be given to anyone under 55, while in Germany it is offered to the over-60s. The UK is allowing the under-30s to choose an alternative.
Between them the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines were the best chance for many developing countries. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is being produced at no profit and is easy to transport and store at room temperature. That was deliberate – the university and the company have pledged to make it highly accessible. The J&J vaccine is the other great hope, because it is given as one dose, not two, cutting the cost and making it easier for countries with shaky health systems to mass-vaccinate.
After the extensive probe into what is happening with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, none of the scientists are very surprised that similar cases involving blood clotting should come to light with J&J’s version.