One US patient died from blood clotting complications after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine while another is in critical condition, a senior scientist for the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.
Overall, six people aged between 18 to 48 developed a rare form of brain blood clotting with low blood platelets between six and 13 days after receiving the shot.
“One case was fatal, and one patient is in critical condition,” Peter Marks said.
Marks drew a link with a similar disorder seen in Europe after people received the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is also based on adenovirus vector technology.
The illness is thought to derive from a rare immune response to the vaccines that triggers the activation of clots.
Anne Schuchat, a senior official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, added that the risk was very low for people who had received the vaccine a month or more ago.
“For people who recently got the vaccine within the last couple of weeks, they should be aware to look for any symptoms.
“If you’ve received a vaccine and develop severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath, you should contact your health care provider,” she added.
The White House on Tuesday played down the impact of a decision to pause the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on the wider US vaccination effort.
“This announcement will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan: Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes up less than five percent of the recorded shots in arms in the United States to date,” said Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, in a statement.
Zients said the huge surplus in supplies of two other vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — meant the United States could easily take up the slack after Johnson & Johnson was forced to suspend due to safety concerns.
“Over the last few weeks, we have made available more than 25 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna each week,” Zients said.
“This is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of three million shots per day and meet the president’s goal of 200 million shots by his 100th day in office.”
However, with swaths of the population — especially Republican men — already hesitant to take vaccines, the J&J setback could further threaten the public relations campaign.
The White House announced that Zients and Biden’s chief medical advisor, infectious diseases specialist Anthony Fauci, would be joining Press Secretary Jen Psaki for her daily press briefing a 12:45 pm (1645 GMT).