The recent announcement by the CDC and the FDA recommending a pause for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was widely criticized.
The CDC and FDA said they recommended the pause to examine 6 cases of women getting blood clots after getting the J&J vaccine.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., so having 6 people get blood clots is an incredibly low number. That’s 0.00000088% of the people who have gotten this vaccine. By comparison, the CDC says you have a 1 in 500,000 chance of getting hit by lighting in a given year (or 0.000002%), which is much higher than the percentage of people who have gotten the J&J vaccine and then blood clots. For now, this appears to be an extremely rare side effect.
Nevertheless, the CDC and FDA want to review these cases and recommended a pause in the use of the J&J vaccine “out of an abundance of caution.”
Some criticized the move, saying a handful of people, out of millions, suffering from blood clots possibly caused by the vaccine should not be enough to stop using it. Many fear the pause will result in more people being resistant to getting a COVID vaccine.
That’s a huge concern, because the vaccines are the key to establishing herd immunity and finally ending this pandemic. At press time 40% of Wisconsin residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s good, but we need a lot more. Estimates for herd immunity are all over the place, but are generally well above 50%.
After a slow start, vaccination distribution improved significantly in Wisconsin, and the state has been one of the most efficient at getting shots in arms.
Despite that progress, vaccine hesitancy by some is a potential roadblock to the end of the pandemic. We need as many people as possible to get the vaccine to prevent the virus from continuing to circulate and mutate, putting our health at risk and harming the economy.
But instead of alarming people, the pause of the J&J vaccine should give us more confidence in the safety of the COVID vaccines. It shows the CDC and FDA are being overly cautious about these shots. Better safe than sorry.
The AstraZeneca COVID vaccine has had far more instances of blood clots than the J&J, but those have still been incredibly rare. That vaccine hasn’t been approved for use in the U.S., again showing how cautious the CDC and FDA are being. That’s a good thing.
Let’s trust the experts and ignore the alarmists and conspiracy theorists. Yes, there is risk in getting a COVID vaccine, but the risk of not getting the vaccine is much greater for you, your loved ones and your community. For the record, at press time I was awaiting my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.