Topline

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, seeking to politicize the decision by U.S. agencies to recommend pausing the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, criticized President Joe Biden and called it a “terrible disservice,” while floating a conspiracy theory—without evidence—the distribution was halted to benefit Pfizer and its Covid-19 vaccine. 

Key Facts

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

There were just six reported cases of blood clots out of more than 6.8 million doses administered, and Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA chief, said Tuesday they only expect the pause to last for a matter of days.

In a statement released on Telegram hours after the FDA and CDC’s announcement, Trump said the decision means the “reputation” of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be “permanently challenged,” and rested blame on President Joe Biden directly.

Trump suggested the pause may have been recommended by U.S. health agencies for political reasons or the “FDA’s love for Pfizer,” which refers to a different baseless Trump conspiracy.

Continuing to push the wild conspiracy theory, Trump said the FDA “has to be controlled” especially with “long time bureaucrats within.” 

The Moderna and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines were both granted emergency use in December 2020, while Trump was still in office, while the Johnson & Johnson shot was approved in February.

Key Background 

This is not the first time Trump has floated a conspiracy theory surrounding Pfizer and the FDA. In November, days after the election, Trump lashed out at the FDA “medical deep state” suggesting the agency had deliberately delayed releasing positive news about the Pfizer vaccine until after the election. “The @US_FDA and the Democrats didn’t want to have me get a Vaccine WIN, prior to the election, so instead it came out five days later – As I’ve said all along!” Trump said in a tweet then. 

Crucial Quote

White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said Tuesday the Johnson & Johnson pause “will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan.” To date, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “makes up less than 5 percent of the recorded shots in arms in the United States,” he added.”

Tangent

Before the Johnson & Johnson vaccine received emergency use authorization, Biden expressed hope the vaccine could be added to the nation’s growing supply of Covid-19 vaccines. “It’s fairly — it’s a high probability that the vaccinations that are available today — and the new one, Johnson & Johnson, God willing — will prove to be useful; that with those vaccinations, the ability to continue to spread the disease is going to diminish considerably because of what they call ‘herd immunity,’” Biden said at a CNN town hall in February.  

Surprising Fact

In October, the New York Times reported the Trump administration blocked new FDA vaccine guidelines which stated volunteers in clinical trials should be observed for side effects for a “median of two months after the final dose.” The report was one of several that detailed possible political pressure from the Trump administration over health agencies.

Further Reading

Several States Halt Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After U.S. Regulators Recommend Pause (Forbes)

Experts Say Pausing J&J Shot Should Increase Vaccine Confidence—But Polling Shows It Likely Won’t (Forbes)