Vaccine advisers for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are recommending that most Americans get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead of the Johnson & Johnson shot.
Thursday’s recommendation came after a review of new safety data about rare but potentially life-threatening blood clots linked to J&J’s shot.
The CDC presented data showing 54 people developed thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome in the U.S. shortly after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Nine people died: seven women and two men, said Dr. Isaac See of the CDC's COVID-19 vaccine task task force.
Of the 200 million fully vaccinated Americans, only a small fraction — about 16 million — got the J&J vaccine.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines don’t have the same risk and provide better protection overall against COVID-19, health officials said at the meeting.
The panel's official recommendation amounts to 21 words: "mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are preferred over the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 for all [greater than or equal to] 18 years of age." Experts say it carries immense weight that could affect global demand for J & J's shot.
CDC still must decide whether to accept the unusual recommendation.
"The impact of the US making a statement like this will be felt in many parts of the world," said UC San Francisco infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.
Statements of preference by the CDC's advisers are rare, said UC Hastings professor of law Dorit Reiss, an expert on vaccine law. In 2017, the CDC panel announced it preferred a shingles vaccine made by GSK over another made by Merck.
"The result was that Merck’s vaccine was no longer in demand and they stopped making it. So this kind of recommendation can actually end up killing a vaccine," Reiss said.
The U.S. paused the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine earlier this year due to concerns over blood clots. However, the pause was lifted after health officials determined the "potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks."
The Food and Drug Administration and CDC said they would continue to investigate the risk of blood clots linked to the vaccine.
On average, the CDC said these blood clots occurred nine days after vaccination. Individuals who needed hospitalization were admitted an average of five days later. Doctors say people who received the J & J vaccine months ago are not at risk.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.