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The CDC Now Recommends Moderna and Pfizer Over Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccines

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people get the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines instead of the Johnson & Johnson shot. The recommendation comes after the CDC’s advisers pointed to increasing evidence that the Johnson & Johnson shot raises the risk of blood clots.

The CDC has reportedly recorded at least 54 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a rare kind of blood clot paired with low platelet counts, in people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Through September, seven women and two men, most with underlying medical conditions, have died in relation to having TTS after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And new data suggest the risk of the syndrome is higher than previously thought. The risk now appears to be around 1 in 100,000 among women between 30 and 49 years old who got Johnson & Johnson, according to the New York Times. (This demographic had the highest risk overall in the data.)

Early on Thursday, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices agreed that vaccine recommendations should be updated after reviewing the new data, and within a few hours, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., decided to move forward with the updated recommendation.

However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine won’t be removed from pharmacies and will remain available for people who are “unable or unwilling” to receive Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, the CDC said, because “receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated.”

While that’s true, studies suggest the Johnson & Johnson single shot is significantly less effective than two-dose COVID-19 vaccines, and laboratory evidence suggests that’s especially the case when it comes to the omicron variant, as the New York Times reports.

Some 16 million people in the U.S. have received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, compared to 73 million who have received Moderna and 114 million who have received Pfizer. Since October, the CDC has been recommending that people who received a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a booster two months out from the initial dose. (Compared with six months out after full vaccination with an mRNA vaccine.) And the agency has allowed people who received Johnson & Johnson to mix and match with a Pfizer or Moderna booster, which the vast majority have chosen to do.

Vaccination continues to play a major role in managing the pandemic. That’s even still the case as the omicron variant, which seems to be able to infect vaccinated people at a much higher rate than even delta, continues to spread. And although news of lessened vaccine-provided immunity is daunting and discouraging, people who are fully vaccinated with two-dose mRNA vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna seem to still have strong protection against severe illness and death, and getting boosted does seem to at least help increase protection against symptomatic infection. Would it be great to have vaccines that helped us completely avoid getting COVID-19 at all? Sure. (Enough people would still need to get those vaccines, which is a whole other issue.) But having vaccines that still appear to highly reduce the odds of getting severely ill or dying from COVID-19 is probably the next best thing.

Related:

  • Here’s How Much Pfizer’s Anti-COVID Pill May Reduce the Risk of Hospitalization and Death
  • 68 ICU Staffers Tested Positive for COVID-19 After a Holiday Party
  • Here’s How Much a COVID-19 Booster Might Protect You From Infection

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