ACIP takes up J&J COVID-19 vaccine pause tomorrow

vaccination center
vaccination center

Division of Military and Naval Affairs Photo by Captain Mark Getman/New York Guard/Flickr cc

Tomorrow an independent group of vaccine experts, ACIP (the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) will decide how to proceed with use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after six cases of a rare brain blood clot were reported in patients following administration of the one-dose vaccine.

The vaccine has been put on pause in the United States for 10 days in an effort to brief clinicians on the warning signs of clots, and for surveillance systems to pick up any more potential adverse events.

The recommendations made in the meeting tomorrow will be heavily considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as they decide whether to end the pause, apply a warning label to the J&J vaccine, or only recommend the vaccine for certain patient populations.

The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 277,938,875 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 215,951,909 have been administered, with 87,592,646 Americans fully vaccinated.

US vaccination rate drops

The vast majority of those doses, approximately 95%, have been the two-dose mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

But in the past week, demand for vaccines in the United States dropped slightly, for the first time since February. The drop could be due to the disruption of the J&J pause, but could also be the first sign that America's supply is outpacing demands, as more than 50% of adults have had at least one dose.

The Washington Post reported though 3 million Americans are still getting vaccinated each day this week, that's 11% less than the previous week. The previous drop in February was due to severe winter weather in the southern half of the country.

Young people who do not feel threatened by the virus, rural and homebound Americans, and vaccine-hesitant adults are the next groups that need to be targeted in a successful vaccine campaign, experts said.

Some states, including Texas and Iowa, have started refusing vaccine shipments: Almost half of Iowa's counties rejected vaccine doses in the past week, state officials said.

In Michigan, the hardest hit area of the current wave of the pandemic, people are not showing up for vaccine appointments.

Health officials from more than 20 counties in Michigan tell Reuters that eligible residents are not showing up for their shots, and that only 50% to 60% of the appointment slots are getting filled.

LA County has lowest infection rate in country

For more than a year, Los Angeles has seen spikes of COVDI-19 activity with every national wave, but now Los Angeles boasts one of the lowest infection rates in the country. According to the Wall Street Journal. In the past week, the positivity rate has hovered around 1%. In early January, the positivity rate was 20%.

Experts say the drop in cases is likely due to high immunity from previous spikes and the circulation of California-based variants, which may be less infectious than other variants.

The United States reported 62,857 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 842 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the country has confirmed 31,883,816 cases, including 569,696 fatalities.

FDA finds Emergent lab seriously flawed

Federal regulators found serious flaws at the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore that had to throw out up to 15 million possibly contaminated doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the New York Times reports.

A 12-page report from the FDA says the company failed to fully investigate the contamination and found fault with the plant's disinfection practices, handling of raw materials, and training of workers.

The FDA has confirmed no people received the contaminated vaccines, which were mixed with ingredients of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which Emergent had also been hired to produce. But the FDA could not say if other batches of vaccine from Emergent were not contaminated.

Janet Woodcock, MD, the FDA's acting commissioner, and Peter Marks, MD, PhD, its top vaccine regulator, said in a statement, "We will not allow the release of any product until we feel confident that it meets our expectations for quality. We know that every time an American, including members of our own families, receives a COVID-19 vaccine dose, they are putting their trust in us. We are working hard to maintain that trust."

Other US developments

  • White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response told CNN yesterday that the Biden administration is in the process of putting together further guidance for vaccinated Americans.

  • The number of Americans filing for unemployment aid last week fell to 547,000, the lowest number since the pandemic began, the Associated Press reported.

  • A new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that 3 in 10 healthcare workers have weighed leaving their profession as a result of the pandemic. About 6 in 10 say stress from the pandemic has harmed their mental health.

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