Four months into the largest U.S. vaccine rollout in decades, it’s become clear that the messaging surrounding covid-19 vaccination efforts is as important as the science behind them.
That was true when the first covid vaccines were introduced in December at hospitals and nursing homes and even more so after the federal government on Tuesday paused the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of extremely rare but very serious — in one case, fatal — side effects emerged.
Most health experts largely applauded the government for its decision, saying it showed regulators making vaccine safety their top priority. They said regulators need to strike a balance between addressing small but serious risks while encouraging millions to get inoculated to quickly end the pandemic.
“The pause is a good decision and shows the public health system is working,” said Noel Brewer, a professor in the health behavior department at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
1. What exactly happened with the J&J single shot anyway?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended Tuesday that health providers and states temporarily stop the use of J&J’s covid vaccine after reports emerged that six women in the U.S. who got the single-shot preventive developed a rare but serious blood clot. One of the women died and another is in critical condition.
All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination, FDA and CDC officials said.
It’s the latest in a series of messaging challenges.
This pause comes less than a week after three vaccine clinics in Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado temporarily stopped using the vaccine when several people fainted or became dizzy immediately following their shots. Fainting is a known risk from all vaccines, affecting about 1 in 1,000 people, health experts say. In response to these cases, some health experts questioned whether even the short-term halt was necessary.