A panel of federal health advisers says it strongly supports the continued use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine despite rare cases of a neurological condition that has affected older men and women.
The benefits of the shot — including reduced hospitalization, intensive care unit admission and death — outweigh the risk of contracting Guillain-Barre syndrome, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) decided on Thursday.
Guillain-Barre syndrome attacks the nervous system and has been documented in approximately 100 of the 12.8 million U.S. J&J vaccine recipients as of July 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many cases have been reported about two weeks after vaccination — a large proportion occurring in men and women aged 50 years and older. Most people recover from the disease, although some have lasting complications. Meanwhile, CDC estimates that the vaccine has prevented thousands of deaths due to COVID-19 among seniors.
The Food and Drug Administration added a label to the J&J vaccine on July 12, warning about a slightly increased risk of the Guillain-Barre syndrome in the first 42 days after being vaccinated.
Clinicians and public health officials should inform patients and the public about any reported adverse events linked to all U.S.-approved COVID-19 vaccines, and patients should be offered a choice in their vaccine product, ACIP stated.
Rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19 and the spread of “variants of concern” makes COVID-19 vaccination critical, ACIP added. Recent outbreaks have been reported among residents in mostly vaccinated nursing homes, and breakthrough infections also have occurred in long-term care residents who have already had the disease once before. The highly contagious delta variant now accounts for 83% of sequenced U.S. COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC.
The CDC has published fact sheets to help clinicians talk to patients about the J&J vaccine.