Coronavirus Update: U.S. COVID vaccine program faces setback with J&J jab, as experts say there is no cause for alarm


The U.S. COVID-19 vaccine program was facing a setback Tuesday, when the nation’s two leading health agencies recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to allow their scientists investigate six cases of blood clotting in individuals who had been vaccinated.

The issue is the same one that has led some, mostly European, countries to pause the use of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC


and Oxford University, which has been linked to clots, albeit in very rare cases.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that while the six cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis were considered a concerning blood-clotting disorder, they have also occurred rarely — the six cases are just a handful of the roughly 6.8 million people in the U.S. who have received this vaccine. The six were all women, aged between 18 and 48. One person died, and another is critical condition, according to remarks made by a FDA official on Tuesday.

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” health officials said Tuesday.

The CDC will hold an emergency meeting of its advisory committee on Wednesday to review the matter.


said in a statement that is “working closely with medical experts and health authorities.” The company also said that it will “proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe.” (J&J’s COVID-19 was authorized in Europe in mid-March.)

The pause “will not have a significant impact” on the White House’s vaccination plan, according to Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, in a statement.

Experts said the news, while unwelcome, is not a cause for alarm. Among other things, the CDC is seeking to ensure that health care providers are prepared to treat blood clots if they occur.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer, has said the clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine are at the same level as in the general population, particularly among younger women who can develop clots from birth control medication, and that it still remains a good vaccine with the benefits outweighing the risks.

State governors moved to reassure their residents that their vaccine appointments would be carried out, with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines offered instead.

The news comes amid progress in getting shots into arms in the U.S., but continued struggles in Europe and elsewhere. The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that as of 6.00 a.m. ET Monday, 237.8 million doses had been delivered to states, 189.7 million doses had been administered, and 120.8 million people had received at least one shot, equal to 36.4% of the population.

A full 74.1 million people are fully vaccinated, or 22.3% of the population, meaning they have received two shots of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc.

and German partner BioNTech SE

and Moderna Inc.
or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.

Among Americans 65 years-and -older, 33.9 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 62% of that group. More than 43 million people in that age bracket have received a first jab, covering 78.9% of that population.

But cases are still rising in the U.S., notably in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, where Michigan is struggling with the highest surge in infections and hospitalizations, and where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has requested extra vaccine deliveries to contain the spread.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday that Michigan should “close things down” for a period, after Whitmer urged state residents to voluntarily restrict certain activities, the Associated Press reported.

“So when you have an acute situation, extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily to give vaccine,” Walensky said, explaining that it takes two to six weeks to see the effect of vaccinations. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to back to where we were last spring, last summer and to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test … to contact trace.”

The U.S. added 72,286 new cases on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 476 people died. The U.S. has averaged 69,030 cases a day for the past week, up 6% form the average two weeks earlier.

Don’t miss: An Israeli study says a COVID-19 variant can still infect vaccinated people — here’s what Fauci says the research means

In other news:

• Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will start to be used in England from Tuesday, providing an alternative to the AstraZeneca one for people under 30, MarketWatch’s Lina Saigol reported. The U.K.’s vaccine advisory committee, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), last week recommended that 18 to 29-year-olds be given a different vaccine, following the blood clot reports. Both the European and U.K. drug regulators have said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks for the “vast majority” of people, and recommended no age restrictions on the shot.

• Australian authorities have identified a second case of a rare blot clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the AP reported. Officials said Tuesday the woman is in her 40s and is in a stable condition. A 44-year-old man developed the same condition following a vaccine March 22. Australia has administered 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine since early March. That equates to a clotting frequency of 1-in-350,000 cases. British authorities say the risk of such blood clots has been 1-in-250,000 in that country.

• Separately, the Australian government has decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine as a way to accelerate its immunization program, the AP reported. The news, announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt, came before the pause announcement from the FDA and CDC. Australia had planned to rely on Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca with the goal of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to all eligible adults among a population of 26 million by October. But the government announced last week that it would instead use the Pfizer vaccine for people under 50 and doubled its order to 40 million doses.

• International agencies including the World Health Organization urged countries on Tuesday to suspend the sale of live wild mammals in food markets, warning they may be the source of more than 70% of emerging infectious diseases in humans, Reuters reported. The guidance, aimed at ensuring the global food system is safe and sustainable, follows a WHO-led mission to Wuhan, China, to investigate the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “This + other recommendations will contribute to

See also: ‘Racism is a public-health issue’: COVID-related restrictions impact some Americans more than others

• In a blow to Southern California moviegoers, ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres, which together operate about 300 screens in the region and have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will not reopen, MarketWatch’s Mike Murphy reported. “After shutting our doors more than a year ago, today we must share the difficult and sad news that Pacific will not be reopening its ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres locations,” the brands’ parent company, Decurian Corp., said in a statement late Monday. “This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward.” The chains operate some of the most iconic and beloved movie theaters in the Los Angeles area, including the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood that was seen in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and the Grove in West Hollywood.

See now: Why cinema will survive the coronavirus pandemic

• The German government has agreed on changes to its national infections control law, handing Berlin more power to impose tougher measures such as night-time curfews to halt the pandemic, AFP reported. The adjusted law, which still needs to be approved by parliament, would allow Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to impose curfews from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and close schools and businesses in areas with high infection rates. Private gatherings and sports will also be subject to tighter restrictions as Germany remains gripped by a dangerous third wave of the pandemic which is putting increased strain on the country’s health system. “Our fight against the pandemic has to be more stringent and more decisive,” said Merkel.

Latest tallies

he global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose above 136.7 million on 8Tuesday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, as the death toll climbed above 2.94 million.

Almost 78 million people have recovered from COVID-19, the data show.

The U.S. leads the world in cases and deaths by wide margins, with 31.3 million cases, or about 23% of the global total, while the 562,610 death toll make of about 19% of the global toll.

Outside of the U.S., India has replaced Brazil as the country with the second highest number of cases at 13.7 million, and is fourth globally by deaths at 171,058.

Brazil is third by cases at 13.5 million and second with a death toll of 354,617.

Mexico is third by deaths at 209,702 and 14th highest by cases at 2.3 million.

The U.K. has 4.38 million cases and 127,346 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 102,091 confirmed cases and 4,843 deaths, according to its official numbers.

What’s the economy saying?

Consumer prices rose in March for the fourth month in a row and the pace of inflation hit the highest level in 2½ years, underscoring new pressures emerging on the economy as the U.S. recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.

The consumer price index jumped 0.6% last month, the government said Tuesday, spearheaded by the rising cost of oil. Economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.5% increase in the CPI.

The rate of inflation over the past year shot up to 2.6% from 1.7% in the prior month, marking the highest level since the fall of 2018.

The yearly rate of inflation is widely expected to surge in the next few months.

A chief reason is a faster U.S. economic recovery fueled by massive fiscal stimulus and a sharp drop this year in new coronavirus cases. That’s boosting demand for a wide array of goods and services at a time when when many key materials are in short supply.

Separately, small-business owners felt the most optimistic in March since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago, a new survey shows, but they are still being very cautious about future plans.

The closely followed optimism index compiled by the National Federation of Independent Business climbed to a pandemic high of 98.2 last month from 95.8 in February. That’s roughly in line with the survey’s historic average

The index is still well below pre-pandemic levels, however. The index stood near an all-time high of 104.5 in February 2020, just a month before the pandemic erupted.

Read: CEOs warn Biden tax hike will hurt economy as battle lines drawn in Washington

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

was lower Monday in the weak of the J&J news, while the S&P 500

moved higher.

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