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COVID-19 Vaccine Update: Many nations pause Johnson & Johnson's vaccine over rare blood clots, India plans rollout

The US has recommended that states pause giving the J&J vaccine while authorities examine six reports of the unusual clots, including a death

April 14, 2021 / 11:00 AM IST
Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine (Representative image)

Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine (Representative image)

The use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine has been paused in the United States for at least a few days on the recommendation of the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) following the development of rare blood clots in few recipients after receiving the shot.

The US recommended that states pause giving the J&J vaccine on April 13 while authorities examine six reports of the unusual clots, including a death, out of more than 6.8 million Americans given the one-dose vaccination so far.

This comes when India has expressed interest in approving the J&J vaccines in the country. "We hope and we invite the vaccine makers such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others...to be ready to come to India as early as possible," Vinod Kumar Paul, a senior government health official, told a news conference on April 13.

The Drugs Control General of India has permitted emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V with certain conditions, clearing the way for the third vaccine in addition to Covishield and Covaxin. Besides, the government has also fast-tracked emergency approval for other jabs.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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What are these blood clots?

These are not typical blood clots. They are weird in two ways, according to Associated Press. They are occurring in unusual parts of the body, such as veins that drain blood from the brain. Also, those patients also have abnormally low levels of platelets -- cells that help form clots -- a condition normally linked to bleeding, not clotting.

Scientists in Norway and Germany first raised the possibility that some people are experiencing an abnormal immune system response to the AstraZeneca vaccine, forming antibodies that attack their own platelets. That is the theory as the US now investigates clots in J&J vaccine recipients, said the report citing said Dr. Peter Marks, the Food and Drug Administration vaccine chief.

Countries that have paused Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine

US federal health agencies has recommended pausing use of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine for at least a few days after six women under age 50 developed rare blood clots after receiving the shot, dealing a fresh setback to efforts to tackle the pandemic in the country with the highest number of infections.

Earlier in April, British regulators and the European Union’s medical agency said that they had found a possible link between AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine and a similar rare blood clotting problem that led to a small number of deaths. Following this, Johnson & Johnson said it would delay the rollout of the vaccine to Europe.

South Africa also suspended the use of J&J's vaccine over potential blood clot risks reported by the United States and Europe.

"We have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced in an online press briefing on April 13.

(With inputs from agencies)

Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.
Moneycontrol News
first published: Apr 14, 2021 11:00 am

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