Federal health agencies in the United States have paused their use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and are urging states across the country to follow suit while they investigate cases of blood clots.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Tuesday that they are calling for an immediate pause in the use of the single-dose shot.
The move comes six people who received the vaccine in the country developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination, The New York Times first reported.
The FDA stipulated that they are calling for the pause “out of an abundance of caution” in a statement posted to social media and said: “These adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”
The six recipients were all women who fell between the ages of 18 and 48 and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. The Times reported that one woman died while another in Nebraska remains in critical condition.
According to estimates from the CDC, up to 900,000 men, women and children are affected by blood clots each year, leading to around 100,000 deaths.
The FDA said that treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered and that therefore more examination of the cases is needed.
While the country moves to pause the rollout of the shot, scientists with the two health bodies will investigate possible links between the vaccine and the rare disorder, known as cerebral venous thrombosis.
The federal government is expected to pause administration of the vaccine at all federally-run vaccination sites and has recommended health practitioners across the states to do the same.
According to data from the CDC, just under seven million people have received a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so far, with over 16 million having been delivered to states across the country.
The FDA confirmed that the CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance.
“This is important to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” they said, adding: “Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause.”
Over 120 million people, which equates to 36.4 per cent of the US population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus shot since the vaccine began in December.
More than half a million people have died of the novel disease since the outbreak gripped hold of the country early last year.
“Covid-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following Covid-19 vaccination very seriously,” the FDA said.
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