Several health experts maintained the decision by U.S. federal health agencies to pause the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine over reports of “rare and severe” blood clots showed the system was working—though early polling in other countries where similar scares have occurred have raised concerns these kinds of interruptions may shake peoples’ confidence in the safety of a vaccine. 

Key Facts

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint statement Tuesday urging states to halt their rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine while the agencies investigate the reports of blood clots out of an “abundance of caution.”

The agencies note there were just six reported cases of blood clots out of more than 6.8 million doses administered, and all occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48.

“I know lots of folks think this will cause more vaccine hesitancy,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health wrote on Twitter Tuesday, but “confidence comes from people believing that we have a vigorous system that takes adverse events seriously.”

Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, told CNN Tuesday the decision to pause the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s “should be largely reassuring” because it shows the agencies are “still looking” to determine possible side effects even after the vaccine was approved. 

Jerome Adams, former U.S. surgeon general under former President Donald Trump, said on Twitter pausing the shots was the “right thing to do to protect both people, and vaccine confidence,” adding he knew from “first hand experience” how much the FDA and CDC “agonized over this decision.”

Key Background

The decision to pause the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes after several European countries in March halted administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine following reports of rare blood clots. Multiple European countries have since resumed the rollout with certain age restrictions, while the shot has yet to be approved for use in the U.S. Polling showed trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine fell following the blood clot scare. According to a March poll from YouGov of about 8,000 people across Europe, more than half of people in Germany, France and Spain believed the AstraZeneca vaccine to be unsafe following the scare. The only country with high levels of confidence in the shot was the U.K., where nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they thought the vaccine was safe, though confidence in the shot overall still declined. In France, a separate poll conducted in March by Elabe for BFM TV, a CNN affiliate, found just 20% had trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Chief Critic

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said on Twitter he was worried the FDA and CDC’s decision would increase “vaccine hesitancy.” “The risk/benefit ratio still favors the vaccine and I fear this risk aversion will add to vaccine hesitancy,” Adalja said, noting blood clots were a very rare condition. 

What To Watch For 

How the scare affects vaccine hesitancy in the U.S., specifically. Polling showed vaccine hesitancy was dropping in the U.S. as more and more Americans received the vaccine. Vaccine hesitancy has been particularly high among Republican men and Evangelicals, an issue politicians on both sides of the aisle have tried to shed light on. A March survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 62% of Americans have either received a Covid-19 vaccine or are eager to receive one, an increase from 47% in January. 

Surprising Fact 

States have already started to heed the CDC and FDA’s recommendation and pause the rollout. 

Big Number

74.1 million. That’s the number of Americans who are fully vaccinated in the U.S., the CDC said on Monday. The vast majority of Americans have received shots from Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. 

Crucial Quote

Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine, sought to temper fears of blood clots on CNN Tuesday, noting patients “have a much higher chance of getting run over by a car” than getting a blood clot from a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He said you should alert your doctor if you develop shortness of breath, leg pain, headache within two to three weeks of receiving the vaccine. 

Further Reading 

U.S. Calls For Halting Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine After Rare Blood Clot Cases (Forbes)

European Trust In AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Shot Plummets Amid Politicized Blood Clot Scare (Forbes)