US agencies call for halt in Johnson & Johnson vaccine over clots

WASHINGTON: The US health authorities recommended a "pause" yesterday in the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine "out of an abundance of caution" over potential links to a rare type of blood clot.

The disorder appears similar to that observed in rare cases of people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) are assessing the "potential significance" of six reported cases.

One US patient died from blood clotting complications while another is in critical condition, a senior scientist for the FDA said yesterday.


All cases involved women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 14 days after vaccination.

As of Monday more than 6.8 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered in the US - meaning that the rare effect appears to have been detected in around one in a million cases.

The CDC will convene a meeting of a top expert committee today to further assess these cases and the FDA will also carry out its own investigation.

"Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause out of an abundance of caution," it said, to ensure the medical community was aware of the development and could develop treatment plans.

The pause deals a hit to the US Covid-19 vaccination campaign, which has so far administered 45 per cent of the adult population at least one dose - among the most rapid rates in the world.

It is too soon to say what impact the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine could have on President Joe Biden's push to reopen the country, White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein said yesterday.

More information was still needed on any possible issues with the vaccine before the Biden administration could weigh what potential impact any delay in the vaccination campaign could have on the nation's economy, he added.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday called for a halt to the sale of live wild mammals in food markets to prevent the emergence of new diseases such as Covid-19.

The WHO said because traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods for large populations, banning the sale of live wild mammals could protect the health of market workers and customers.

The call came in fresh guidance drawn up in conjunction with the World Organisation for Animal Health and the United Nations Environment Programme.

The three agencies said wild animals were the source of most emerging infectious diseases in humans and recommended measures to reduce the potential risk. - AFP, REUTERS