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CDC says J&J Covid vaccine is OK for people who have allergic reaction to Pfizer’s or Moderna’s

Gary Collis of Bunker Hill, West Virginia, receives his boost dose at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) community vaccination event, as the vaccination rate in West Virginia ranks among highest in world, in Martinsburg, February 25, 2021.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Johnson & Johnson‘s Covid-19 vaccine can be used as a substitute for a second jab of Pfizer or Moderna‘s shots for those who have an allergic reaction to the first round of either company’s vaccine, a scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines both use mRNA technology and require two shots to achieve full protection. Patients who suffer an allergic reaction to either should wait at least 28 days before getting the J&J one-dose vaccine, said Jessica MacNeil, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“In exceptional situations where the first dose of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine was received, but the patient is unable to complete the series with either the same or a different mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, for example due to a contraindication, a single dose of Janssen’s Covid-19 vaccine may be administered at a minimum interval of 28 days from the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose,” she said Monday at an emergency meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Janssen makes vaccines and other drugs for J&J.

The CDC currently recommends that people who have a severe allergic reaction to one of the shots to forgo the second shot. But J&J’s one-shot vaccine, which received emergency use authorization Saturday, could give those patients another way to maximize protection against Covid-19.

There were 47 reports of anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction, among those who received Pfizer’s vaccine and 19 cases in those who received Moderna’s as of Jan. 18, according to data presented Monday by Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office.

That’s a rate, he added, of about 4.7 cases for every million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that’s been administered and 2.5 per every million of the Moderna shot. Most of the reactions happen shortly after the first shot, Shimabukuro said.

The CDC’s MacNeil noted that the vaccines “are not interchangeable” and that the safety and efficacy of taking one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and one of the J&J vaccine has not been tested. She added that people who get J&J’s should do so “under the supervision of a health-care provider.”

A couple members of the committee, the expert panel that advises the CDC on immunizations, questioned the CDC’s reasoning. Dr. Marci Drees, a liaison to the committee and the Chief Infection Prevention Officer at ChristianaCare in Delaware, noted that some of the ingredients of J&J’s vaccine are similar to that of the Moderna and Pfizer shots.

In response, MacNeil said that a reaction to one of the mRNA vaccines would necessitate “precaution” when receiving the J&J vaccine, but that it could be done safely if the patient is monitored for at least 30 minutes after receiving the shot.

There have been fewer reported cases of allergic reactions to the J&J vaccine compared with that of Moderna and Pfizer, but it hasn’t been rolled out in the broader population yet. In clinical trials, J&J acknowledged last week that there were two cases of anaphylaxis among participants in the trial.

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