This week, the FDA announced that it was recommending a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine, on the grounds that six vaccine recipients of the nearly 7 million doses administered had suffered from a rare blood clotting disorder. One person died. Officials said the pause was out of an “abundance of caution.” All 50 states have heeded the federal recommendation, which officials now say may stretch from seven to 10 days.
The Biden administration had its reasons. After four years of Trump obfuscations and lies about the pandemic generated by a brain trust that probably couldn’t collectively pass a high school biology exam, the first step in restoring public trust in public institutions is painstaking transparency. Second, the complications linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not standard blood clots and are not effectively treated by a standard course of care; the drug normally used to treat clotting, Heparin, actually makes this particular clotting condition worse. Doctors who encounter post-J&J vaccination patients who are experiencing clotting symptoms will be more effectively able to treat those patients with the knowledge that this type of clotting is a possibility— albeit minuscule.
Columbia University’s Dr. Irwin Redlener, an expert on pandemic preparedness and public health, told The Daily Beast that he understands the Biden administration’s goals in being radically transparent, but that the inoculation pause may have done more harm than good. “In this case, caution was too abundant,” he says.