One month ago, just 12 percent of the country had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. On Tuesday (April 13), NPR reported that the percentage has climbed to 22.3 percent, indicating that the vaccine rollout is certainly chugging along. However, the joint announcement from the FDA and CDC that they are pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to blood clot issues might put the brakes on vaccine uptake, especially among already suspicious segments of the population.
In the statement, the FDA said that six women among the 6.8 million who received doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson as of April 12 had developed a particular kind of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). The condition is rare, and usually only found in adolescents and young children. In this case, the clots were found in women between 18-48 years of age and developed between six and 13 days after vaccination.
In cases of CVST, blood is prevented from draining from the brain, which can lead to a build-up of pressure that can cause a rupture, leading to a brain hemorrhage or stroke. Symptoms include severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath. The FDA and CDC are urging people who develop any of these signs within three weeks of getting vaccinated to contact their healthcare providers.
“Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from typical treatment for other types of blood clots, which usually involves an anticoagulant, called heparin,” said Peter Marks, the FDA’s director for the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) in a call with the media. “With cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, heparin may be dangerous and alternative treatments need to be given, preferably under the guidance of physicians experienced in the treatment of blood clots. Of the clots seen in the United States, one case was fatal, and one patient is in critical condition.”
Although developing CVST is an extremely rare reaction to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there are indications that the pause in its distribution will affect consumer behavior. We are already seeing spikes in COVID-19 infection rates in hotspots across the country such as Michigan and Texas, fueled in part by people who are either skeptical about vaccinations in general or are just tired of taking the precautions that have slowed the virus’ spread thus far.
In a report released by PYMNTS entitled “Mapping the Consumers’ Return to the Physical World,” the data found that consumers are more willing to get vaccinated now than in the past, but almost half are still either against or lukewarm about the idea. PYMNTS’ research showed that 51 percent of all consumers now say they are “very” or “extremely” likely to get vaccinated. This is more than the 45 percent who said so on Nov. 19 and the 40 percent on Nov. 12, but still leaves 49 percent of the population that is only “somewhat,” “slightly” or “not at all” interested in getting vaccinated.
The biggest reason that some consumers are not interested in getting vaccinated is concern about potential side effects, as 57 percent of uninterested consumers cite this reason. Fifty-three percent would rather wait, and 27 percent say they are worried that the vaccine might contain unhealthy ingredients. Other consumers simply doubt that the vaccine will work, saying they prefer to rely on their own immune systems, or worry that the vaccine will make them sick.
While the Johnson & Johnson news is still unfolding, a sign of things to come might be found in Europe, where last month, several countries banned the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the report of blood clot issues. While such issues affected only 30 out of the five million who got the vaccine, a YouGov survey found that confidence in the vaccine plunged, with more people in France (61 percent), Germany (55 percent), Spain (62 percent) and Italy (64 percent) saying that the vaccine was less, rather than more, safe.
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