US experts recommend resuming J&J COVID-19 vaccinations

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine
Vials of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Image Credit: AP

WASHINGTON: The United States should resume Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccinations, an expert panel recommended to health authorities on Friday, after a pause prompted by blood clot concerns.

“The Janssen Covid-19 vaccine is recommended for persons 18 years of age and older in the US population under the FDA, emergency use authorisation,” the group covened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Italy approves J&J vaccine

On Tuesday, Italy declared the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to be “safe” and said it would prioritise its use for people over 60. The announcement came hours after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said blood clots should be listed as a “very rare” side effect of the vaccine.

In the light of that ruling, the US-made jab should be considered “definitely safe,” Italian health authorities said in a statement. It “should be preferentially administered to people over 60 years old” and those particularly at risk from the virus, they added.

The same guidelines were previously issued in Italy for the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca jab, which has also been linked to very rare instances of blood clotting.

Separately, Italy’s coronavirus crisis commissioner said a first consignment of 184,000 J&J doses would be distributed across the country starting Wednesday.

The J&J vaccine is seen as easier to administer and transport than some of its rivals, because it requires just one dose and can be stored at warmer temperatures. J&J vaccine’s introduction in Europe was suspended earlier last week after US health regulators said the shot should be paused over blood clot fears.

Iceland approves J&J vaccine

On Wednesday, Iceland approved Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine and will begin administering it next week with no age limit, the country’s health authority said.

“We have received the conclusion of the European Medicines Agency which says the Janssen vaccine can be used and it will therefore be distributed next week,” Kamilla Josefsdottir, an infectious disease specialist at the Directorate of Health, told reporters.

The decision comes a day after the European medicines regulator gave the one-shot vaccine the green light. In its decision, the EMA said blood clots should be listed as a “very rare” side effect of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, but that the benefits of the shot still outweighed the risks.

“We have decided to not have any restrictions on the Janssen vaccine for the time being,” Josefsdottir said.

Some 2,400 doses of the vaccine arrived in Iceland on April 14 but have been held back, like in the rest of the European Union – of which Iceland is not a member but which is taking part in the bloc’s vaccine supply programme – pending the EMA’s decision.

Iceland has restricted the AstraZeneca vaccine, which uses the same viral vector method as the J&J jab, to people over the age of 60 due to the risk of rare but severe blood clots.

That age limit could however be lowered soon, the government said Wednesday, as Iceland expects to receive 16,000 AstraZeneca doses from Norway, which has halted its use of the jab pending further study.