On May 5, the FDA updated its authorization of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, limiting its use to adults 18 and older in certain cases where other vaccines are not appropriate. This means that most people should receive either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, and should only get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if other vaccines are not accessible or clinically appropriate (such as people who have had an anaphylactic reaction to a different COVID-19 vaccine) or in cases where individuals who elect to get a Johnson & Johnson vaccine would otherwise not receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

This update was based on the latest data about the risk of developing a rare blood clotting disorder after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. While the risk of a serious adverse reaction to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is very low and far lower than the risks for COVID-19 infection, it is higher than for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which is why the CDC recommends that most people should get a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. The identification of any possible risks, like the risks associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is a sign that the nation’s safety monitoring system for COVID-19 vaccines is working.

People who are not yet vaccinated, along with those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are now eligible for a booster shot, should get a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. These two vaccines are widely available, but Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still on the market for cases where other vaccines are not accessible or clinically appropriate.

Updated May 6, 2022