Johnson & Johnson said it will resume its vaccine rollout in Europe after drug regulators gave the company the green light to continue, The New York Times reports.
The company delayed its rollout in the EU last week after the United States halted vaccinations in response to seven cases of rare blood clotting disorders following nearly 7 million shots.
But EU’s drug regulator determined that the benefit of the vaccine outweighed the risk, though the company will have to add a warning to its product indicating the possible risk of rare blood clots.
The news comes after a number of European countries halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after it was linked to a potential risk of clotting.
The European Medicines Agency said the rare Johnson & Johnson side effect is “very similar” to the AstraZeneca one.
Still paused in the US:
The vaccine remains on hold in the US but health regulators are widely expected to reach a similar conclusion as European regulators.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to meet for a second time on Friday to decide whether to lift the suspension and possibly add a similar warning.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been a boon for underserved communities and homebound people because it is a single-shot vaccine that does not require advanced refrigeration like the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
Doctors warn pause will do more harm than good:
Some medical professionals worry that the headline-grabbing news about the suspensions may cause people to overestimate the risk and avoid vaccination.
“You’ve put a scarlet letter on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told the Times. “If you take a theoretical million people who are infected with Covid, five thousand will die. Therefore, the benefits of this vaccine clearly outweigh its risks.”
Offit said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is vital for people who are homeless, homebound, or may face difficulty getting two doses.
If those people aren’t able to get the vaccine, he said, “then you have probably elevated a rare risk above a much more common risk, and you’ve done harm.”