Janssen vaccine partly suspended, vaccination programme blown off course

For the time being Belgium is suspending the use of the Janssen vaccine (produced by Johnson & Johnson) on people aged 40 and younger.  The decision was taken after a foreign national aged under 40, who was immunised abroad, died in Belgium.

Details about the incident are patchy, but Flemish health minister Beke (Christian democrat) confirms the death is being linked to the vaccination.

“We have asked the European Medicines Agency to investigate.”

Until the EMA responds Belgium will not administer the Janssen vaccine to 40-year-olds and younger.  People who have a vaccination invite will be offered a different vaccine.

The Federal Medicines and Health Products Agency was alerted to the case of a patient with a serious thrombosis and low platelets last Friday. The patient received the vaccine via her foreign employer and not within the framework of the Belgian vaccination programme.

Until now it’s mainly over 45s who have received the Janssen vaccine in Belgium.  The decision to suspend this vaccine temporarily for lower ages should have few immediate ramifications on the programme. 

The vaccine is currently chiefly being used for home vaccination of the elderly, the homeless and undocumented people. It only requires one jab and Belgium will continue to use it on these groups without regard to age as there is no alternative.

Problems with the production and supply of the Janssen vaccine pose a greater issue.  Belgium was counting on receiving 1.4 million doses.  “This now seems unlikely’ says Beke.  “If the supplies falter our goal of immunising everybody with at least a first jab by 11 July will be blown off course.  We estimate 85% of adults will have received a first shot by the Flemish national holiday.”

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