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December 16, 2021

Most Americans should receive Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over J&J shot, CDC panel says

Johnson & Johnson's shot is has been tied to a rare but serious blood clotting side effect

A rare but serious blood clotting issue linked to Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine has prompted a recommendation that most Americans receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead. 

An advisory panel to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Thursday in favor of the recommendation, noting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do not carry the same risk and are more effective.

The recommendation still must be accepted by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

The side effect has been confirmed in 54 cases, resulting in nine deaths, but public health officials previously had recommended all three available coronavirus vaccines equally. The side effect is more common among women, occurring once in every 100,000 doses among women ages 30-49.

When the vaccines were first rolled out, J&J's one-shot vaccine was believed by many to be an important tool in getting hard-to-reach populations inoculated, as the other two vaccines require a second appointment for a subsequent dose. 

But the U.S. temporarily stopped administering the vaccine in April. Health officials ultimately deemed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's benefits outweighed its risk. 

Of the roughly 200 million Americans who are considered fully vaccinated, only 16 million have received the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Due to the shot's lower efficacy, U.S. health officials recommended anyone who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine receive a booster shot two months after their first doses. Health officials have since recommended all adults who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines get a booster six months after their second doses.

The panel's recommendation was made as part of a longer meeting that included discussions about vaccine safety in 5-to-11-year-olds and an update on the omicron variant.

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