Pause on J&J Vaccine: All modern medicine comes with risk

Lily Baker, Staff Writer

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has recently been paused due to cases of six women who experienced uncommon, but serious blood clots after receiving the shot. In extreme caution, federal regulators have halted distribution and have ordered an emergency meeting of experts to determine the severity of the problem. After reviewing these cases, scientists came to the conclusion that these scenarios are extremely rare; however, it is difficult to make a full assessment of clots like these because there have only been six cases reported out of the 7 million people who have received the J&J vaccine. 

Overall, the vaccine administration has seen immense success, with about three million shots being given each day. When scientists began working on the vaccine, one main worry was that the public would have hesitancy regarding the legitimacy and contaminants of the vaccine. There has already been hesitancy with people questioning the vaccines’ content and side effects, and this new pause of the J&J vaccine is bound to cause even more reluctance. With more and more people weary of the vaccine, it is possible that COVID-19 infections will surge again

The Economist recently ran a poll to determine how the public viewed the vaccine. Before the news about the blood clots, 52 percent believed the shot to be safe; however after the news, that percentage dropped to 37 percent. This hesitancy is not just seen in the United States; hesitancy among Europeans also increased after the EU briefly paused, and then reinstated, AstraZeneca’s vaccine out of new concerns that it can cause blood clots forming in the brain. This has led to more concerns from the public and less trust in the vaccine. Similarly, a survey evaluating the dominant perspective on the vaccine in eight European countries concluded that after suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine, the percentage of people feeling safe about getting the shot dropped by 11 percentage points. Consequently, Denmark is now the first country to “entirely cease administering” AstraZeneca’s vaccine to its population. 

According to The Intelligencer, even before the news about blood clots from the J&J vaccine came out, polling suggests that some populations have varying levels of hesitancy. From a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, it found that 55 percent of Black respondents said they wanted the vaccine, and 24 percent were still unsure. On the other hand, rates of distrust and hesitancy remain high amongst Republicans and Evangelical Christians. 

It is unclear whether the J&J vaccine pause will end, as scientists have said they need more time to examine the issues around potential side effects. It is very serious and unfortunate that these six women reported blood clots, and it is wise for regulators to meet and discuss with fellow experts on this issue to determine the issue. However it does not mean that there needs to be a vaccine distrust overall. In fact, virtually all modern medicine involves some level of risk. For instance, birth control taken by millions of women also is known to cause rare cases of blood clots. However, it is still taken, because these rare cases do not compare to its overall safety. In order to get back on track with vaccine administration, it is important for public officials to continue to clearly communicate that the COVID-19 vaccine is imperative in reaching herd immunity. Everyone needs to take responsibility and help protect those around them by getting the vaccine.

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