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US Health Officials Call for Immediate Pause in Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is administered in Bay Shore, NY
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is administered in Bay Shore, NY

U.S federal health officials Tuesday said “out of an abundance of caution” they are recommending an immediate pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six cases of blood clots were reported in the United States.

At a joint virtual news briefing, officials of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the pause would last “a matter of days” while the agencies investigate the cases of blood clotting, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), which occurred in women between 18 and 48 years old within six to 13 days after receiving the one-dose vaccine.

They note the six cases occurred out of more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine administered.

CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said people who received the vaccine more than two weeks ago have very little to fear. Those who received the vaccine within the last week or so who develop symptoms such as severe headache, abdominal or leg pain, or shortness of breath, should contact their health care provider.

The officials said they are working to reschedule those people who had appointments to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Schuchat said the decision is not a mandate, and people who, after discussions with their physicians, feel they can safely take it, will be allowed to do so.

In a statement Tuesday, White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator Jeff Zients said the decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will not have a significant effect on the nation’s vaccine program, as it made up less than five percent of the vaccine administered to date. Zients says the U.S. has secured enough doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for 300 million people.

The New York Times is reporting that one woman has died and another woman in the state of Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the second one linked to potential blood clots. Several nations have issued new guidelines on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after the European Union’s medical regulator announced a link between the vaccine and rare, possibly fatal blood clots.

Meanwhile, a new single-day record of COVID-19 cases has pushed India into second place, behind the United States, as countries with the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus infections.

The South Asian nation’s 168,912 new COVID-19 cases posted on Monday gives India 13,527,717 total cases, compared to Brazil’s 13,517,808 total cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The new surge coincides with an acute shortage of vaccine in some Indian states, along with the annual Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, on the Ganges River, where millions of Hindu devotees bathe to seek absolution, raising fears it could evolve into a superspreader event.