Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout halted amid concerns over rare form of blood clotting


Bill O’Brien, Editor


Cases of blood clotting remain extremely rare among the upwards of 7 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients. To this date, there have only been six reported cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis from J&J vaccine recipients, per Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) trended downward (-3.04 percent) following regulatory actions on Tuesday, April 13, that halted administration of the medical device giant’s one-dose vaccine. Per the CDC, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has been administered to more than 7 million people as of April 14. Since then, aside from common side effects typically caused by vaccines, there have been six reported cases of a rare blood clotting condition known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. The condition has been reported in conjunction with low levels of blood platelets, a condition known as thrombocytopenia, per CDC reports.

All six cases were of women between the ages of 18 to 48, and symptoms were reported to have occurred six to thirteen days after receiving the vaccine. The combination of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and thrombocytopenia is difficult to treat. The conventional remedy for blood clots, an anticoagulant called Heparin, cannot be used as, according to the CDC, “In this setting, administration of Heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.”

Although regulatory scrutiny poses significant risk to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine distribution, JNJ shares have stabilized around $159.59, just 1.24 percent lower than its week high of $161.69, as of Wednesday at 12:40 p.m. EST, following Tuesday’s vaccine halt. Investors appear cautious but, surprisingly, largely unbothered by the halting of the vaccine which has an additional 10 million doses in circulation, on top of the more than 7 million already administered. 

JNJ’s price resiliency is likely due to regulatory language from FDA officials signaling a swift and optimistic outcome for the vaccine. On an April 13 joint media call with CDC officials, Dr. Janet Woodstock, Acting Director of the FDA, iterated that she expects the pause to be a short one: “Well, the timeframe will depend obviously on what we learn in the next few days, however, we expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.” Signaling from the CDC reinforces this rhetoric, depicting the action as precautionary rather than the result of crisis. Per their website, last updated on April 13, the Centers for Disease Control convened an “Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)” with the goal to “review these cases and assess their potential significance.”

On a broader scale, public health officials do not believe this situation will detract from the Biden Administration’s ambitious vaccination efforts, citing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be a minority among COVID-19 vaccines distributed. According to Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, over 121 million Americans have been vaccinated with at least one dose of one of the three vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson only represents just over 7 million of those doses. Although a prolonged pause on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine does not pose a robust threat to the larger mass vaccination effort from a supply standpoint, the negative press associated could have potential drawbacks on an American populace that has already struggled to trust the rapidly developed vaccines that are being distributed under emergency use authorization from the FDA. Continued public confidence in the vaccination effort is a key driver to achieving herd immunity and the reopening of the economy that would subsequently follow.

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