Yet that effort hasn’t eased the immense pressure on the Biden administration to find a way forward – quickly. The administration has worked for months to reduce vaccine hesitancy across the country and any prolonged hiatus in Johnson & Johnson vaccine use could undermine that effort. Frustration is also growing among governors who say the J&J vaccine – the only one-size-fits-all option available in the United States – is crucial for immunizing vulnerable groups like the homeless, homebound elderly and prisoners.
“The longer the break, the longer it will take us to convince people that this particular vaccine is safe again,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, told POLITICO.
Already conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccine proponents are using the Johnson & Johnson flip side to fuel reluctance and mistrust across social media.
“It’s a setback – no doubt about it,” said Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine. “When you have this kind of anti-vaccine attack, it changes the equation. This will be exploited. “
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. HHS has not commented on the record for this story.
Federal officials said they called for a hiatus, rather than just warning the public and clinicians, due to unusual appearances of the clots currently under investigation. Known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, they develop in the blood vessels leading to the brain. Many of the women who developed the disease after vaccination also had low levels of platelets, which help form clots. Health experts believe this strange association could be a byproduct of an immune reaction to the vaccine.
Of particular concern to those administering Biden was that the pairing could be made worse by the heparin anticoagulant, as the drug is standard treatment for most types of blood clots.
The six known cases were reported to J&J directly or to the CDC through its Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which relies on healthcare providers to report when a person has a reaction to a vaccine.
Federal officials are now urging doctors to report all cases that have so far flown under their radar to guide both the recommendations of the CDC’s Vaccine Advisory Committee and a separate but parallel FDA investigation, which has cleared the J&J vaccine in March.