This story has been updated.
Jabs of the Johnson & Johnson novel coronavirus vaccine will soon return to Oregonians' arms — despite the death of one state resident whose blood clotted following injection — after a multi-state review board gave the all-clear.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, comprised of scientists and health leaders from Oregon, California, Nevada and Washington, confirmed on Saturday, April 24, a prior federal re-approval of the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The ball now rests with the Oregon Health Authority, which announced April 25 that health care providers and pharmacies could resume administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if they inform patients about the vaccine's benefits and risks.
In a statement, Gov. Kate Brown noted that she was among the seven million Americans to receive the J&J jab.
"With this thorough scientific review by leading state and federal doctors, scientists and health experts, Oregonians can be confident that this vaccine is safe and effective," she said. "My heart goes out to the family in Oregon who lost a loved one after receiving her shot ... Just as they do with other medications, doctors now have the information they need to assess when any additional precautions should be taken."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices previously re-approved use of the vaccine on Thursday, April 23. The news prompted sighs of relief from local health officials.
"(The) federal actions are encouraging news as we confront the latest surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths," Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon's state health officer, said at the time.
Use of the J&J vaccine was paused on April 13 following reports of patients whose platelet count dropped, causing them to experience severe blood clots in major veins, a condition now known as thrombosis thrombocytopenia syndrome.
More than 87,00 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in Oregon. National authorities say they have now confirmed 15 total cases of the syndrome, all involving women. Thirteen of the cases were women aged 18 to 49, with the remainder older than that. Three people died.
Authorities say the risk of developing the syndrome for women 50 or younger is equivalent to seven cases per million doses, and for those older than 50, 0.9 cases per million. Assuming a middle-of-the road scenario, the CDC determined that for every million doses given to women age 18 to 49, 13 patients might experience blood clotting, but 657 COVID-19 hospitalizations, 127 ICU admissions, and 12 deaths would be prevented.
"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine would prevent far more deaths and intensive care unit admissions than the potential number of TTS cases incurred," the Oregon Health Authority said. "The benefits outweigh the risks even further for women 50 years of age and older and for men."
The Oregon woman who died was in her 50s and reportedly experienced an "adverse" reaction within two weeks after being injected with the vaccination, with the inoculation itself occurring before its use was halted. Experts continue to look into the matter.
"Until the investigation is complete, it cannot be concluded whether her death is related to the vaccine," the Oregon Health Authority said.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated following Oregon Health Authority's decision to resume administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
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