For Americans wary of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine as it returns to use after the investigation of a potentially deadly side effect, health experts have a message: The system worked.
A recommended hold on the vaccine was lifted on Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration after a 10-day review of rare and serious blood clots in some people who had received the shot.
The small risk of clots from the shot is far outweighed by its protection against the coronavirus, an advisory panel said. In the next six months, the shot could prevent some 1,435 covid deaths and 2,236 hospitalizations, compared with 26 possible clot cases, according to a presentation by the CDC.
The scientific scrutiny of the clots and the public deliberations by regulators should put people more at ease, some health officials say.
"This was the safety system working exactly as it should," said Dave Chokshi, New York City's health commissioner.
However, the pause has converged with a slowdown in the U.S. immunization campaign. Many people who were most eager to get vaccinated have been, and there is worry that J&J's issues could make it harder to convince holdouts to roll up their sleeves.
While more than 41% of people in the U.S. had received at least one vaccine dose through Saturday, and more than a quarter had been fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, the daily average rate of shots has declined over the past week.
As critical as it is to get the U.S. population immunized, the J&J side effect complicates the message about vaccination's benefits. To reach the uncertain, a more tailored message is likely to be needed. The idea that the system worked might not comfort those who question how the system functions.
"There's not a one-size fits all approach in a country of 350 million," said Ezekiel Emanuel, a medical ethics and health policy professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Despite signs that the pause eroded interest in the J&J vaccine, its single-dose simplicity has made it a sought-after option for those who don't want to deal with two injections, according to public-health experts and care providers. The other two U.S.-authorized vaccines, from Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE, require two shots several weeks apart.