The FDA and CDC’s call to pause Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is a “strong argument for safety,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical officer, said during a press briefing Tuesday. Fauci said the agencies raising the red flag on the one-dose vaccine after six cases of a rare, severe blood clot were reported among the 6.8 million recipients was a “testament” to how seriously officials are considering patient safety.
When asked if the agency acted too quickly to call for a pause, Fauci said the agency is “internationally known for their capability for making sure we have the safest products out there,” which is why they acted out of “an abundance of caution.”
“This decision was made by the CDC and the FDA and that’s one of the things that’s such a good thing about our system here, is that we’re ruled by the science not by any other consideration so the decision was really thoroughly made by the FDA and CDC,” he said.
While some questioned whether the pause would contribute to vaccine hesitancy, Fauci noted the tens of millions of Moderna and Pfizer doses that have been administered without any issues, and said that the FDA’s swift action on Johnson & Johnson “shows they are indeed the gold standard.”
For those who have recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, namely those who are still within the six to 13-day window of when the six clot instances occurred, Fauci said it’s important to avoid having an “anxiety reaction,” and to remember the risk is “less than 1 in a million.” However, he did caution that recipients pay attention to symptoms pertaining to headache, shortness of breath, chest discomfort or other neurological symptoms and report them to a physician.
He said he heard officials discuss that the pause would be a matter of days or weeks rather than weeks to months. The agencies will work to further investigate patient history and determine possible mechanisms behind the adverse reactions, while also working to further notify physicians so that they can be better prepared to treat the clots.