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FDA limits use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine over blood clot concerns

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Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani joins the Live show to discuss the FDA's decision to limit the use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines amid blood clot concerns.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: The Food and Drug Administration is limiting the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over blood clot concerns. The FDA now only recommending the vaccine for those who do not have access to other COVID-19 vaccines. Joining us now is Anjalee Khemlani with more of the details on this. I mean, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has obviously been struggling for a bit. And this is just the latest bad news for it.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right, Julie. So let's break down how we got to here. We heard of the first reports of blood clots over in Europe and in South Africa. South Africa suspending use of the vaccine back in March of last year. The European Medicines Agency then following through and investigating the link to those blood clots. We then have the FDA follow suit, but not really make a decision until right now. Meanwhile, the CDC, their outside advisory committee did look at it last December and made a similar recommendation. And we know the CDC has also looked at using Johnson & Johnson and then mRNA doses as a booster.

So really, that's the trouble and the pressure that J&J has been facing with its vaccine. It really is really a tragedy because we know that Johnson & Johnson really checked off every box that was asked by the global community, not for profit pricing, easy to administer, globally available compared to the mRNA doses, which are now boasting record profits and are a little bit harder to deliver in store.

We also know that Aspen Pharmaceutical coincidentally yesterday-- that's a partner of Johnson & Johnson that is producing these doses for South Africa and for the African Union-- said that they're seeing such low demand that they're going to have to pivot half of their production of those doses in six weeks away from Johnson & Johnson manufacturing if demand doesn't pick up. And that is after recently putting in place that agreement back in March. So, like, you know, it's just a lot going on.

While we do see sort of that sentiment out there, I do want to note that Kaiser Family Foundation has pointed out that 40% of US donations abroad to especially low income countries are Johnson & Johnson vaccine, though it does only make up about 12% of overall US donations, so it does seem like there's that pathway really to donating it abroad. But of course, that sentiment and with the FDA and the CDC both saying it's essentially a vaccine of last resort, some concerns there.

But experts do tell me that right now, at least, it's one dose that's better than no vaccine. So they do still recommend taking it and are saying that it doesn't mean that it's a bad vaccine. So I do want to emphasize that point. We did, of course, ask CFO Joe Wolk about this and what that means, really, about whether or not the company could potentially stop producing or decrease production. And here's what he had to say.

JOE WOLK: In your question is a very astute observation with respect to vaccine hesitancy. We know that, by and large, people were generally receptive to receiving a vaccine in the developed world. That is not necessarily the case in the developing countries. So that is also a consideration as we look forward to demand.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: So as you can hear, really, they're going to be monitoring this. We'll see what it is right now. Of course, government contracts still make up a majority of the vaccine demand. So that's really where they'll have to start making that. We did reach out to the company. And in a statement, they did say, quote, "The language about the risk of the blood clots has been added to the first page of the fact sheet to increase its prominence. However, the update highlights that the potential risk does not reflect a change in the rate of cases observed." So the company maintaining that this was already in their initial data and that nothing has really changed as a result. Back to you.

BRIAN SOZZI: Yahoo Finance's senior healthcare reporter, Anjalee Khemlani, thanks so much.