CDC advisory group says benefits of Johnson & Johnson vaccine outweigh risks
A CDC advisory committee said that it strongly supports the continued use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, despite its potential link to Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Last week, the FDA reported that the risk for developing Guillain -Barré syndrome (GBS) after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “very low,” usually occurring within 6 weeks.
During a meeting convened by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), members reviewed data on the risks associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as well as its benefits, including the vaccine’s role in controlling the spread of the Delta variant. To date, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine accounts for 4% of total COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the U.S., Sarah Mbaeyi, MD, MPH, a medical officer at the CDC, said during the meeting.
There have been 100 reported cases of GBS, including one death, after vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to Meghna Alimchandani, MD, a medical officer at the FDA. The patient who died was a 57-year-old man who had a history of heart failure, stroke, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.
Grace M. Lee, MD, MPH, chair of the ACIP COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical Subgroup, said that the crude number of GBS cases in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is about 8.1 per million doses with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In contrast, the crude number of GBS cases is 1.1 per million doses with the mRNA vaccines. The expected number of GBS cases is about 1.6 per million doses, Lee said.
In addition to GBS, Mbaeyi noted that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also been linked to an increased risk for thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), and the mRNA vaccines have been linked to myocarditis.
“The reported adverse events — TTS, GBS and myocarditis — are potentially serious and should be transparently communicated with the public,” she said. “Even with the new GBS safety signal, the benefits of [Johnson & Johnson] vaccination continue to outweigh the risks.”