Should you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine now that it’s resumed in the U.S.?

should you get the johnson & johnson vaccine
Photo via New York National Guard/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
  • On April 23, the U.S. allowed the vaccine to be distributed again
  • The vaccine was paused after 13 people were affected by blood clots
  • People, though, are hesitant about getting the vaccine

Now that the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is back in play in the U.S., some folks may find themselves questioning whether they should get it. 

On April 12, a joint statement was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, announcing a pause on the Janssen vaccine following reports of a rare blood clot that required a very specific type of treatment. 

But here’s the thing— the entire vaccine was paused because of 13 individual cases of these clots. Out of about 8 million total doses administered, this represents a chance of .000001625% of being stricken with the disorder. 

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met April 23 to discuss precisely this—the halting of a vaccine based on these instances of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. That same day, the U.S. officially allowed the vaccine to be given out again with a new warning label about the rare possibility of blood clotting. 

In Europe, the vaccine was already being administered again after regulators required that the risk of blood clots be noted on the label. The justification given is that the benefits, providing protection from severe cases of COVID-19, outweigh the risks. 

The phrase “scarlet letter” was used to describe the effect of this pause on public perception of the vaccine by the New York Times, highlighting that some people may consider the relatively small risk too great. 

By being easier to store and with the ability to fully vaccinate someone with a single shot, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has won favor with healthcare experts and workers. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia vaccine expert Dr. Paul A. Offit told the Times that the one-dose method is valuable for inoculating those who are homebound or otherwise limited in their ability to get a second dose. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that there are groups for whom this vaccine is of benefit,” he said, “meaning that they’re more likely to get this vaccine than the other vaccines, whether it’s because of where they live, or because they’re homebound, or it’s hard to get a second dose.”

It might be difficult to reason with people who are still unvaccinated on whether they should get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. According to The Hill, only 22% of people who haven’t received a vaccine said they would be willing to get Johnson & Johnson’s version, while 73% said they would decline it. 

Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, FDA, The Hill

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