Safety Monitoring of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine - United States, March-April 2021

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021 May 7;70(18):680-684. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7018e2.


On February 27, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Janssen (Ad.26.COV2.S) COVID-19 vaccine (Janssen Biotech, Inc., a Janssen Pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson) (1). The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, the third COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in the United States, uses a replication-incompetent human adenoviral type 26 vector platform* (2) and is administered as a single intramuscular dose, whereas the first two authorized vaccines use an mRNA platform and require 2 doses. On February 28, 2021, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued interim recommendations for use of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine among persons aged ≥18 years (3). During April 13-23, CDC and FDA recommended a pause in use of Janssen vaccine after reports of six cases of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) with thrombocytopenia (platelet count <150,000/μL of blood) among Janssen vaccine recipients (4). Similar thrombotic events, primarily among women aged <60 years, have been described in Europe after receipt of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which uses a replication-incompetent chimpanzee adenoviral vector (5-7). The U.S. CVST cases that prompted the pause in Janssen vaccination, as well as subsequently detected CVST cases, are described elsewhere (8). This report summarizes adverse events among Janssen vaccine recipients, including non-CVST cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), a passive surveillance system, and through v-safe, an active monitoring system. As of April 21, 2021, 7.98 million doses of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine had been administered. Among 13,725 VAERS reports reviewed, 97% were classified as nonserious and 3% as serious, including three reports among women of cases of thrombosis in large arteries or veins accompanied by thrombocytopenia during the second week after vaccination. These three cases and the previously detected CVST cases are consistent with 17 cases of TTS,§ a newly defined condition. Approximately 338,700 Janssen COVID-19 vaccine recipients completed at least one v-safe survey during the week after vaccination; 76% reported a systemic reaction, 61% reported a local reaction, and 34% reported a health impact. Fatigue and pain were commonly reported symptoms in both VAERS and v-safe. The overall safety profile is consistent with preauthorization clinical trials data. Prompt review of U.S. vaccine safety data detected three additional cases of non-CVST TTS, in addition to the previously recognized CVST cases that initiated the pause in use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Ongoing monitoring of adverse events after COVID-19 vaccination, including vaccination with the Janssen single-dose vaccine, is essential for evaluating the risks and benefits of each vaccine.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Approval
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety-Based Drug Withdrawals
  • Sinus Thrombosis, Intracranial / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Young Adult


  • COVID-19 Vaccines