Doctor pushes back against call to keep Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused for everyone

A top doctor is pushing back against a panel of experts' decision to delay voting on a recommendation to give to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine suspension.

Earlier this week, the CDC and the FDA called for an immediate pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after discovering six cases in the U.S. of a rare and severe type of blood clot that developed in the patients who received that vaccine.

Six women experienced the blood clots about two weeks after receiving the vaccine. Sadly, one woman died.

Her death is what led to halting the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The reports are out of more than 7 million inoculations in the nation with the one-dose vaccine.

This is what else we know about the affected patients:

  • Three women are still in the hospital, and one woman has been discharged.
  • All of the women are white and between 18 to 48 years old.
  • On average, each of them started to feel symptoms about eight days after receiving the shot.
  • One woman was taking birth control. Three of the women are classified as obese, one has high blood pressure and one has asthma.

None of the women have any kind of blood clotting disorders, which is why doctors are trying to figure out why the cases happened.

These are not run-of-the-mill blood clots. They occurred in unusual places, in veins that drain blood from the brain, and in people with abnormally low levels of clot-forming platelets. The six cases raised an alarm bell because that number is at least three times more than experts would have expected to see even of more typical brain-drainage clots, said CDC's Dr. Tom Shimabukuro.

On Wednesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, which advises the CDC, delayed voting on a recommendation to the agency so that members can further evaluate the risk and data.

The CDC expects its advisers to reconsider the evidence within two weeks.
But that decision to delay the vote drew criticism from Dr. Ashish Jha, who regularly works with ABC News. Jha is dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

He called the decision a "mistake" to pause the shot for everybody, instead of just continuing to halt the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for women ages 18 to 49.

Jha acknowledged that he supported the FDA's initial pause on Tuesday.

"Nearly all the adverse events are in women 18-49 years old. Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST), the clot seen with J&J, is known to be more common in young women. Suggests that young women probably the group at high risk," the doctor wrote.

"Given that most cases of vaccine-related CVST appears in women, ACIP should have recommended continuing pause for women 18-49 but resuming for everyone else. Keeping vaccine paused for everyone makes little sense. Risk-benefit keeping vaccine paused for everyone WAY off," Jha continued in a thread.

Jha said that the ACIP is just advisory, meaning that the FDA and CDC could move forward and recommend resuming vaccinations for everyone except women ages 18 to 49.

The other concern is that the pause will discourage people from getting vaccinated. But president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Dr. David Callender said there is a way to address it.

"The way that we counter that is to go forward and talk about the very good experience that we've had thus far, particularly with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and the extreme rarity of this event," Callender said.

READ MORE: Pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccinations: Will this cause vaccine hesitancy?

Experts say education and transparency will keep people open to getting the vaccine.

The government says there are no signs of similar clots after vaccination with the Pfizer and Moderna shots that are the mainstay of the COVID-19 fight in the U.S.

The U.S. has intensive monitoring for COVID-19 vaccines, though rare cases of side effects have occurred after millions of vaccine doses have been given.

SEE ALSO: How many people in your area are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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