Updated CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendation
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky updated COVID-19 vaccine guidance to preferentially recommend that people receive either of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, instead of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to protect against COVID. The update came in response to the risk of a potentially fatal blood clot side effect. When this side effect was first discovered identified in middle-aged women in April 2021, the federal government ordered a “pause” on administering the vaccine. After reviewing the data, the federal government found that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risk and “unpaused” administration of the vaccine.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reviewed data collected since then and found the number of cases of the side effect was higher than expected though still extremely rare, affecting 54 people out of 14,000,000 doses administered through August, and was found in men as well as women. It was found that nine people in the United States died from the blood clotting side effect. None of those deaths were in Philadelphia. The new data prompted today’s update.
The Health Department released the following statement in response to the update:
“Today’s news about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine fortunately only applies to that vaccine, which is not related to the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “It’s important to remember that no one who experienced the blood clotting side effect did so more than four weeks after they got their Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so if it’s been longer than that, you should be okay. If you recently received a first dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last four weeks, seek immediate medical care if you experience certain symptoms.”
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine works differently than either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and this blood clotting side effect has not been seen in people who got those vaccines. I still strongly recommend that everyone who is eligible get every dose of COVID vaccine that they are eligible to receive as soon as possible. People who are younger than 60 should seek out either Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, rather than J&J.”
“Even with this new development, COVID vaccines are our best defense against severe COVID disease. They can reduce your risk of contracting and spreading COVID, and are much more likely to keep you from experiencing severe symptoms.”
The symptoms Dr. Bettigole recommended new recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine look out for include:
- Severe headache
- New neurologic symptoms
- Severe abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Leg swelling
- Tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
- New or easy bruising
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