This editorial has been updated to reflect current developments.
When data linked a potentially fatal blood clotting disorder to the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did what they promised to do, and what ‘They almost always do, in such situations: they have advised doctors and pharmacists should temporarily discontinue use of the vaccine while they investigate the matter.
The break should last a few weeks. The risk of developing this potential side effect is expected to be very low compared to the risks associated with the coronavirus for unvaccinated people. Only six cases of coagulation have been reported in the United States so far, out of the 6.5 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines that have been administered. The FDA is expected to clear the company’s vaccine for continued use, perhaps with a few exceptions for people at high risk of clotting, and almost certainly with advice on how to monitor and treat the disease in question.
The fact that such breaks are common in clinical trials and post-market drug surveillance hasn’t stopped critics from denouncing the FDA and CDC In the hours following Tuesday morning’s announcement, critics warned the agencies’ decision would cost lives. , increase reluctance to vaccinate and create widespread irreconcilable confusion.
Questions regarding the Covid-19 vaccine and its deployment.
This fear and frustration is understandable. It’s a precarious moment in a pandemic that has been both deadly – with nearly three million lives lost worldwide – and never-ending. Immunization rates are steadily increasing, but the variants are still on the move. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine represents a small portion of the total vaccine supply in the United States – less than 5%, according to the White House. But he has a crucial role to play. Because it only requires one dose, not two, it is the preferred option for hard-to-reach communities and for places where vaccine reluctance is rampant. (It’s easier to persuade a person once than twice.) These are often the same communities where the risk of developing Covid-19 is greatest. It’s no small feat to undermine confidence – in this photo, in particular.
But if federal health officials were to skip this step – if they decided not to report a development of a blood clot – it would also come with risks. In the United States, as elsewhere, vaccination relies on careful monitoring and prompt course corrections in an emergency. This is especially true for coronavirus vaccines, given how quickly they were cleared. Changing the normal protocol could just as easily undermine confidence, increase reluctance, and give the virus another advantage over us, than not doing so.
Having said that, it is fair to wonder if the officials had other options. It might have made more sense to conduct an investigation, while continuing to vaccinate – or at least not cancel existing vaccination appointments, and then adjust as needed if something more worrying arose. .
It is difficult to say whether this half-measure would have been more successful in alleviating fears and preserving confidence. On the one hand, many vaccine-reluctant people might assume that if the problem were really serious, the vaccine would be discontinued. On the other hand, people who are already ready to panic about vaccine safety may be less likely to distinguish between pausing and not interrupting a vaccination program.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will almost certainly remain a crucial weapon in a battle all Americans desperately want to end. The best thing the vaccine promoters can do is remember this and remind everyone in the days to come.