This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed
WASHINGTON — Vaccine advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are meeting Friday to discuss how to move forward with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen coronavirus vaccine.
There are now 15 confirmed reports of blood clots with low platelet counts following the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with a dozen of the clots occurring in veins near the surface of the brain, a condition called “cerebral venous sinus thrombosis,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of these rare reactions is more than double of the six cases initially reported that prompted federal regulators to recommend a temporary suspension. The 15 cases are out of the nearly 8 million J&J shots given.
Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, a member of the CDC’s task force on COVID-19 vaccines, told the panel that all of the 15 cases were women. Most of them were in their 30s, although the age range was 18-59. Three of the women died.
Dr. Michael Streiff, an expert with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said he thinks outcomes could be improved if people are aware and seek help right away.
Many of the women tried to treat their symptoms at home for several days, unaware of the severity of the situation.
Streiff said it’s also clear that doctors shouldn’t treat the condition with heparin, a common used blood thinner, and can treat the complications with alternative therapies.
“I think with education we can improve outcomes of these patients,” Steiff said.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to vote later on updated recommendations for use of the vaccine.
The blood clotting disorder is characterized by a rare type of blood clot in the brain — and possibly other large blood clots — along with a low number of blood-clotting cells called platelets. Some blood specialists have said they believe it’s caused by an unusual immune reaction that targets platelets, causing them to glob together into clots.
“We are very much encouraged by the fact that our safety reporting systems are working,” Dr. Shimi Sharief, senior health adviser with Oregon’s health authority, told reporters in a briefing.
She noted the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing and killing people.
“This is still extremely rare,” she said — noting that seven cases of blood clots had been reported out of nearly seven million J&J vaccines given, and two of those cases had been fatal.
ACIP will also hear from two officials of Johnson & Johnson.
Members of ACIP will consider the potential risks of the vaccine as opposed to the risk of catching coronavirus. Blood clot specialists have told CNN the risk of developing blood clots of all sorts from coronavirus infection are much higher than the risks seen in people who got the vaccine.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been linked to TTS as well. The World Health Organization and European medical regulators have said the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized in the US, outweigh any potential risks.
Earlier this week, Dr. William Schaffner, a non-voting ACIP member and infectious diseases professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN that ACIP could recommend that use of the vaccine resume with no changes, or the committee could recommend that the US stop using the J&J vaccine altogether.
Schaffner said it’s more likely that ACIP will recommend that use of the vaccine resume with a warning about possible adverse effects — and potentially, advice to the highest-risk populations to steer clear of this vaccine altogether.