U.S. health officials are recommending Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine not be used until an investigation into cases of post-vaccination blood clots is finished.
The six cases, all among women, involve a rare and severe type of clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in combination with low levels of blood platelets, officials told reporters in a call on Tuesday.
One of the patients died while a second is in critical condition at a hospital.
The patients are between the ages of 18 and 48. They experienced the symptoms between 6 and 13 days after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said on the call.
More than 6.8 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s shot have been administered in the country as of April 12.
To respond to the cases, the CDC is convening a meeting of its vaccination advisory committee on Wednesday to review them and assess their potential significance. The Food and Drug Administration, along with investigation into the cases themselves, will review that analysis.
Until the probe is complete, health officials and drug regulators are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution.
“While these events are very rare, we’re recommending a pause in the use of the J & J COVID-19. vaccine in order to prepare the healthcare system, to recognize and treat patients appropriately, and to report severe events they may be seeing in people who’ve received the J & J vaccine,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
Treatment of the specific type of blood clot is different from treatments that might be typically administered. Usually, clots are treated with heparin, an anticoagulant drug, but using the drug to treat cerebral venous sinus thrombosis may be dangerous.
CVS, Walgreens, and a number of states, including Massachusetts and New York, said they would stop giving Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in light of the federally recommended pause. The Pentagon is also halting use of J&J’s shot.