Dr. Kavita Patel told CNBC on Tuesday that she believes the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid vaccine be discontinued is likely to have a lasting impact on the country’s efforts to fight the pandemic .
“This is a devastating blow to these J&J vaccination efforts in the United States,” said Patel, a Washington family doctor who worked on health initiatives in the Obama administration while serving as political director for the Bureau of Interstate Affairs and Public Engagement .
In an interview on Squawk Box, Patel said that the supply of Pfizer and Moderna’s two-shot vaccines cannot quickly meet the demand caused by the J&J hiatus. This will delay US vaccination efforts, she added.
The FDA recommendation, released Tuesday, came after six recipients of J&J vaccines in the US developed rare and severe blood clotting problems.
In a tweet, the US regulator said its actions were taken “out of caution”.
All six cases occurred in women aged 18 to 48 years, with symptoms developing six to 13 days after receiving the shot.
So far, J&J has said that there is “no clear causal link” between these rare events and the vaccine. The US drug giant also said it was working with regulators.
Patel said the halt – even if it turns out to be temporary – could complicate initiatives to combat vaccine reluctance in the US
“To anyone who hesitates, think about the fact that we are still dealing with deaths, hospitalizations and the effects of even mild cases of Covid,” said Patel. “Vaccines have been shown to be effective in all of these situations. Preventing death is a much better option.”
While she expects that Moderna and Pfizer will at some point be able to “fill some of this void,” said Patel, “it will be some time” before these other vaccine manufacturers have additional doses available in the US
A particular challenge in discontinuing the administration of J & J’s vaccine is that it only requires a single shot, while Moderna and Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines require two doses for complete protection of immunity.
“We just can’t replace it for the next week or three,” said Patel, a medical assistant for NBC News and a non-resident of the Brookings Institution. “This will delay our vaccination efforts.”
To compensate for this, the US could consider reducing second-dose administration to recipients of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Patel suggested.
The Chief Medical Officer of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has spoken out against requests earlier in the pandemic.
The second dose of Moderna is supposed to be given four weeks after the first, while the recommendation for the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is three weeks apart.
“You will hear a renewal for calls to delay that second shot so we can get that many first shots in the arms. It’s not an unreasonable thing to think about now,” said Patel.
“If we postpone the second dose of Moderna or Pfizer for a week or two, it might actually help us fill some of that void faster,” she added.