Monday, June 21, 2021 -
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Don’t pause J&J

The pausing of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may be the proverbial final straw. For the record, I have followed every single ordinance regarding COVID-19. But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking that there is little sense of proportion when it comes to this pandemic.

There is literally less than a one-in-a-million chance that a person taking the J&J vaccine will develop blood clots, specifically a Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis. For a male, there is currently a zero in a million chance. Same for women over 49. Yet the vaccine has been paused for the entire population.

Yes, those adverse effects should be studied. I would even understand temporarily suspending the vaccines for the specific group impacted. But the benefit of having thousands more immunized far outweighs the risk of extremely rare clots.

I read an excellent thread on the decision from Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown Public Health.

“Imagine 54 [year old] male migrant farm worker with diabetes who can’t return for a 2nd shot?” Jha tweeted. This person has a 1 in 1,000 risk per day of contracting COVID. Should that happen, he has a 1 in 100 chance of dying from COVID. According to Jha, “each unvaccinated day, his risk of death is 1 in 100,000. His life-time risk of CVST from J&J? WAY less than 1 in million. May be zero.”

Why is this person not being offered J&J? The science clearly demonstrates that he should be.

The CDC claims that adverse effects undermine confidence in a vaccine. I’d argue that bad information about risk-benefit is far more dangerous — and undermines this pandemic’s mantra of “following the science.” Many people may now feel that if a single adverse effect is reported, the vaccine isn’t good. How many will contract COVID directly because of this pause — and indirectly because they won’t feel confident taking J&J when it comes back on the market?

The truth is that as a global society, we are going to be grappling with serious questions about risk-benefit analysis for decades to come. Responses to coronavirus have led to famine, fatal lack of (non-coronavirus) medical attention, a rise in mental health issues and negative impact on children’s education.

The sooner we can get out of this pandemic, the better off everyone across the planet will be. Why are the FDA and CDC delaying?

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

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