CDC's pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccines criticized as a 'deadly mistake'
Coronavirus (AFP:File : Angela Weiss)

The controversial decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines was harshly criticized in an op-ed published by The Washington Post.

The column was written by Govind Persad, an assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and William F. Parker, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Chicago and assistant director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.

"The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) this week made no recommendation on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meaning the CDC's initial decision to pause administration of the vaccine will likely remain in place until at least next Friday. As a result, 10 million doses of the vaccine will sit unused in refrigerators as hundreds of thousands of Americans are infected with covid-19. As infections and hospitalizations rise in many states, slowing down vaccinations was a deadly mistake," they wrote.

"The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC justified the initial pause as necessary to help health-care providers identify and properly treat a rare post-vaccination syndrome involving not only blood clots but also low platelets. They were right to share that information, but that emergency justification for a short pause is now gone. There is no evidence the vaccine's risks universally, or even typically, outweigh its benefits in preventing a pandemic disease with serious and unknown consequences. The agencies should end the pause, keep sharing information and let patients decide," they argued. "At its meeting, ACIP analyzed vaccine side effects with admirable transparency. But there was no rigorous analysis of the risks of not being vaccinated. Rather, ACIP insisted that because 'alternative covid-19 vaccines (mRNA vaccines) are available,' the tradeoffs are inconsequential. This shows a profound disconnect with the reality many Americans face."

They noted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose, making it far easier logistically.

"In a pandemic, each day counts. The FDA has not removed the vaccine's authorization, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is not bound by ACIP's (non-)advice. She could end the pause and restore access for people who reasonably prefer single-shot protection from covid-19 to the minuscule risks of vaccination. If backed up by risk-benefit analysis, the CDC could recommend that certain subgroups (e.g., younger healthy adults) wait for an alternative vaccine. The public can play a part, too: They should press senators and President Biden to appoint a permanent FDA director who considers benefits as well as risks and acknowledges tradeoffs. And they should encourage state public health agencies to help end the pandemic by keeping access to the vaccine open for those who want it," they concluded.

Read the full report.