WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that he’s hopeful public health experts will provide a roadmap forward for the troubled Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of this week, saying he believes it will not be taken out of circulation altogether, although there may be new warnings attached.
Last week, officials recommended a temporary pause in the vaccine’s usage after a possible link to a handful of cases of rare blood clots. This Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee will examine further data about those concerns.
Fauci said that he hopes that America will “get back on track” with the vaccine after that meeting, but admitted that it’s possible there could be new restrictions or warnings related to the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine.
“Everything is on the table,” he said in an interview on “Meet the Press.”
“My estimate is that we will continue to use it in some form,” President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said. “I doubt very seriously if they just cancel it. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I do think that there will likely be some sort of warning or restriction or risk assessment. I don’t think it’s just going to go back and say, ‘Okay, everything’s fine. Go right back.’ I think it’ll likely say, ‘Okay, we’re going to use it, but be careful under these certain circumstances.'”
U.S. health regulators recommended the pause after concerns surfaced about a small handful of cases of blood clots developing in women shortly after receiving the vaccine, which had been approved for emergency use. So far, the data suggests the clots are extremely rare, with just a handful of possible cases out of the more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine administered in the U.S.
But Fauci noted that that the normal course of treatment for other blood clots could make this specific issue worse, and said that the pause also gave time to inform doctors of that potentially dangerous complication.
“There’s a twofold reason for doing it: One, to pause and take a look in more detail about it,” Fauci said about the rare clots, “and two, to make sure that the physicians treat people appropriately.”
With the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine sidelined for now, the U.S. has been leaning on vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, the two shots that have been the cornerstone of the country’s vaccination strategy. As of Saturday, there have been more than 205.8 million total Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in America and more than 82 million are fully vaccinated.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told reporters this month that he believes a third dose of the vaccine will “likely” be necessary within the next year, something Fauci entertained but stressed would be a decision made by public-health officials.
“It is going to be a public health decision. It’s not going to be a decision that’s going to be made by a pharmaceutical company. We’re partners with them because they’re supplying it. It’ll be an FDA/CDC decision,” he said.
“The CDC will use their Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices the way they always do.”