CDC Director: People Unable or Unwilling to Get Pfizer or Moderna Vaccines Should Get Johnson & Johnson’s

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
December 20, 2021 Updated: December 22, 2021

Americans who are not willing or able to get the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines should get Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 shot, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC’s vaccine advisory panel recently recommended the agency make clear that the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, both of which utilize messenger RNA technology, are preferred over the J&J one. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, accepted the recommendation.

However, getting any vaccine is still better than remaining unvaccinated, Walensky said at a Dec. 17 press conference.

“Given the current state of the pandemic both here and around the world, any vaccination is better than no vaccination,” she said. “Individuals who are unable or unwilling to receive an mRNA vaccine will continue to have access to Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.”

Members of the panel voted after hearing that more cases of blood clotting in conjunction with low blood platelet levels had been detected among those who were vaccinated with J&J’s single-shot vaccine. Health authorities were able to confirm 54 cases after delving into reports submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. More cases have likely occurred, authorities said, because studies have indicated post-vaccination events are underreported to the system.

Some members weighed making explicit their view that the only people who should get J&J’s jab were those who could not get an mRNA-based vaccine for health reasons or lack of access. The panel was told by CDC officials that their views would be incorporated into clinical guidance for the vaccine.

The recommendation came shortly before a preprint study suggested Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine produced virtually no protection against the Omicron variant the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. Just one of the 12 individuals vaccinated with the shot saw neutralizing protection against Omicron.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines held up better against the new variant but also saw dramatically reduced protection.

Other studies have indicated that the protection from Pfizer’s vaccine against Omicron has dropped under 50 percent, considered the standard for a viable vaccine by many experts.

Booster shots restore some, but not all, of the lost protection, early research shows, though experts are unsure how long that restoration will last.

Johnson & Johnson said last week that the company “remains confident in the overall positive benefit-risk profile of its COVID-19 vaccine” and pointed to earlier studies that show the jab “generates strong antibody and cellular immune responses and long-lasting immune memory and breadth of protection across variants.”