Is the US right to pause J & J vaccine over 6 adverse cases?


Fact Box

  • As of Tuesday, April 13, there have been 32 million coronavirus cases in the United States, with 576,810 reported deaths.
  • There are currently three COVID vaccines: Pfizer - BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Both Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines and require two doses, while Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine in one dose. 
  • According to the CDC, 22.7% of the US population has been fully vaccinated and 36.8% has at least one dose, as of April 13. 
  • The CDC and FDA issued a joint statement on Tuesday recommending a pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of the six cases of severe blood clotting, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. All cases were women between the ages of 18 and 48. Until the finalized review, those vaccines will be cautioned.

Ethan (Yes)

While vaccinations are safe and essential, and all eligible individuals need to get vaccinated when they can, it doesn't make sense for the US to continue distributing a vaccine that has caused six women to develop a severe type of blood clot. The point of the vaccine is to help keep people healthy. There is no logic in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it's causing adverse reactions in numerous people because there is already a lot of doubt circulating about the vaccine's safety. Pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration will slow down the spread of that fear and keep people safe with the other, more protective vaccine options.

According to the CDC, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is far less effective at only 66.3% coverage than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The risk people are putting themselves at when they get Johnson & Johnson over the other options isn't worth it when you consider the fact that they will be less protected. While the risk of these blood clots is severe, the FDA and CDC are pausing the distribution of Johnson & Johnson out of 'an abundance of caution.' 

Johnson & Johnson planned on testing the vaccine for use in children under the age of 18, so many people fear that pausing the distribution of the J&J vaccine will slow down this testing and the vaccination of children. However, according to CBS News, 'Pfizer has asked the FDA to expand emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine to adolescents'. This will begin getting vulnerable children vaccinated and make time for another vaccine to be developed and administered. 

Elizabeth (No)

Pausing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution over six seriously adverse reactions (and only one fatality) is excessive and reactionary. The chances of a Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST) blood clot with the J&J Covid vaccine are roughly one in 1,000,000, which is on par with serious annual reactions to the flu vaccine. Across the general population, this 'extremely rare' clot already occurs at a rate of 5/1,000,000 per Johns Hopkins University. According to WebMD, there's a combined total of 70+ occurrences of anaphylaxis from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Compare all that to the 172 in 100,000 (.0017%) likelihood of dying from COVID. 

Even if the occurrence of CVST is eventually attributed to the J&J vaccine, it's unknown whether these same women were likely to suffer from it regardless. Every new drug/treatment has side effects, and a drug's distribution will inevitably bring to light some previously unknown health conditions in a percentage of recipients. The mere potential for risk doesn't justify stopping research and innovation. The odds you'll be struck by a meteorite are about one in 3000, but that doesn't prevent people from leaving the safety of their homes and living their lives without giving a second thought to falling rocks. 

Given a choice, some will opt for the virus, others for the vaccine side effects. And while in most cases, it should be an individual's right to decide for themselves, we must return to normal life. Hampering our collective ability to do so by delaying herd immunity will arguably result in many more casualties from COVID-adjacent causes (overdose, suicide, etc.) than any side effects from a vaccine.

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