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December 15, 2021

CDC advisors to consider limits on Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine

The committee is expected to weigh concerns over the shot's link to blood clots and its lower efficacy

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Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been linked to an increased risk of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia syndrome, a rare but serious blood clotting condition.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on updated recommendations for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

According to a meeting agenda posted online, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will hear updates on the blood clots linked to the vaccine and discuss the benefits and risks associated with it.

The CDC has not shared the specifics of the vote, but one source told CNN that the committee may limit who it recommends receive the vaccine due to blood clot concerns and its lower efficacy than other COVID-19 vaccines.

The source said the advisors may recommend against the vaccine being given to women under age 50 because women ages 30-49 have the highest rates of thrombocytopenia syndrome.

Another possibility is recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines over the J&J shot, a federal official told the Washington Post

Studies have linked the J&J vaccine to increased risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, a rare but serious blood clotting condition.

The J&J vaccine also offers less protection than the other vaccines, with recent research underscoring the need for recipients to receive COVID-19 boosters. Real-word data has found it is 73.6% effective, significantly lower than the efficacy ratings of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That analysis came prior to the omicron variant, which is believed to partially evade vaccines. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have maintained the potential benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the potential risks, but the CDC also has stated that women under the age 50 should be made aware of the increased risk of blood clots and reminded that other vaccine options are available. 

Symptoms of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome include severe headaches or blurred vision, shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, easy bruising and abdominal pain. People who experience these symptoms are advised to seek medical care immediately.

About 16 million people in the United States have received the J&J vaccine, a small fraction of the vaccinated population. 

The vaccine advisers will meet from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, with the vote is set for 2:30 p.m.

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