The military plans to resume administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine later this week, now that federal health officials have recommended the shots be given out once again.
The Defense Department stopped giving service members, dependents and other personnel the one-shot vaccine April 13, immediately after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration announced that six women had developed "rare and severe" blood clots after receiving the J&J vaccine. One of the women, who lived in Oregon, died.
Two more possible cases of blood clots surfaced after the announcement, including a seventh woman whose clots were reported after the pause, and a man who experienced clots earlier during clinical trials.
Nearly all of the reports of the condition, called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, have occurred in adult women who are younger than 50 years old, the agencies said.
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But on Sunday, 12 days later, the CDC and FDA recommended that the temporary pause be ended.
"A review of all available data at this time shows that the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine's known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks," the agencies said in a statement.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a Monday briefing with reporters that military sites will begin a "controlled resumption" of the vaccine administration within days.
The move comes with caveats, however. The CDC and FDA said that women who are younger than 50 years old should be made aware of the "rare but increased risk" of developing the condition. The agencies also said women should know this risk has not been seen in the other vaccine options, Pfizer and Moderna.
However, the Pentagon is also tracking 14 cases of military members who developed myocarditis, or heart inflammation, after receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Kirby said that all recipients of the J&J vaccine will be informed of the known side effects and potential risks beforehand
The military has about 100,000 doses of the J&J vaccine on hand around the world, mainly in the Indo-Pacific Command, European Command, Central Command, Southern Command and Africa Command areas of responsibility.
The pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine complicated the military's plans to vaccinate troops and family members overseas, particularly those in remote locations. It requires only one dose and does not have the same strict refrigeration needs as the Pfizer vaccine, making it better suited for sending overseas.
The Pentagon on April 16 said it would ship tens of thousands of additional doses of the Moderna vaccine overseas to try to make up for the temporary loss of the J&J vaccine.
-- Stephen Losey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.
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