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April 28, 2021 - 4 min read

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine available again

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause has been lifted and is now available for use in the United States.

On April 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, known as the Janssen vaccine, due to six reported cases of a rare type of blood clot associated with the vaccine. After thorough review and evaluation of risks and benefits by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the recommendation to pause use of the vaccine was lifted. According to the FDA and CDC, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is still considered safe and effective.

To date, over 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the United States with most recipients showing mild or no side-effects.

The vaccine, developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals Company, a division of Johnson & Johnson, requires only one dose and can be stored in normal refrigerators. This has made it easier to store and distribute compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require lower storage temperatures thus limiting distribution efforts.

Clinical trials show the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be around 85% effective in preventing severe disease and 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death. While this efficacy rate may seem lower than that of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is important to note that there was a lot of variability in terms of testing conditions, such as the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants during the time of the Johnson & Johnson clinical trials, making it nearly impossible to do direct comparisons across the different vaccines.

To address fears that the new vaccine could be perceived as a second-rate product, Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C. says, “it’s going to protect, no matter what, for the part of the disease that we really care about, which is hospitalization, severe disease and death.”

Having a vaccine that only requires one dose to be effective alleviates the burden of people having to schedule two appointments, which can be a hurdle for some when it comes to managing work or family schedules.

Seth Glickman, M.D., chief health officer, Blue Shield of California says, “The fact that multiple vaccines that are safe and highly effective were developed and approved in less than a year is stunning. No shortcuts were taken when testing these vaccines for safety and efficacy. New vaccine technology, along with focused effort and resources, shortened a process that typically takes up to a decade to less than a year.”

The pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was an immediate and proactive response to extremely rare side effects in an effort to ensure safety and avoid any further risk to the population. Since then, public health professionals and immunization experts have carefully reviewed available data, benefits of the vaccine against the virus, and risk before deciding to continue use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Administration of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will resume with appropriate communication of warnings for providers and recipients regarding the potential blood-clot risks to aid in making the best decision possible. The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, representing states such as California, Washington, Nevada, and Oregon, has decided to resume use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the days to follow.

In a statement from California Governor, Gavin Newson reaffirmed confidence in the vaccine, “After additional review, analysis and scrutiny, experts have concluded the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, effective and will protect you against the COVID-19 virus. To date, about a million Californians have already received this vaccine – including myself and many of the state’s top doctors. I encourage all Californians to trust the science, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones and end the pandemic.”

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