CDC recommends Pfizer, Moderna vaccines

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that they are is advising citizens to receive the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine brands over the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) brand, due to a higher efficacy rate found in the former two, and the rare but serious side effect related to blood clotting that is associated with the Janssen vaccine.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) supports this action, as it reflects the latest science and data available. While the two mRNA vaccines are preferred over the Janssen vaccine for both primary vaccination series and for boosters, the Janssen vaccine will remain available for use in people who are unable or unwilling to take an mRNA vaccine.

“This action shows transparency and commitment at the national level when it comes to protecting the public,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “During a pandemic as unprecedented as the one we’ve all experienced, fact-finding is a never-ending task. We’ve now learned that, over time, the Janssen vaccine is less effective and carries a risk of very rare but severe side effects not seen in the other two vaccines. So, we encourage South Carolinians readying for their initial vaccine series or preparing for their booster shot, to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine brands.”

Following a risk/benefit assessment of the potential adverse effects and the effectiveness of the Janssen vaccine, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), voted unanimously to recommend use of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines preferentially over the Janssen vaccine. The CDC says it has confirmed 54 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or clotting of blood vessels with low platelet counts, associated with the Janssen vaccine. Of those cases, nine people have died.

“More than 17 million Americans have been vaccinated using Janssen, so the vaccine has certainly played a vital role in fighting this pandemic,” Simmer added. “That said, the role of public health is to protect people and maintain their trust. We hope South Carolinians rely on the overwhelming positive benefits we’ve seen from the COVID-19 vaccines and will choose to start or complete their vaccination series and get a booster as soon as they are eligible using one of the safe, effective mRNA vaccines.”

According to the CDC, the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, and a booster shot with either brand will further stave off the virus and its variants, including Delta, Omicron and others.

SCDHEC continues encouraging these life-saving vaccines for all eligible ages, which now include ages 5 and up, and booster shots for all who are eligible, which is ages 16 and up, when due. Visit the DHEC COVID-19 webpage for more information, the locator page to find a nearby place to get vaccinated, or call our Vaccine Information Line at 1-866-365-8110.