While some have questioned whether the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine pause will contribute to shot hesitancy or even turn some away from seeking a jab, the U.S. Surgeon General said Friday that it should be seen as a sign that the “safety system is working for you.” Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was partaking in the White House’s COVID-19 briefing on Friday, said that officials have been working diligently and transparently for the “people to know what we know.”
“Our message has been consistent that number one this pause is about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” Murthy said. “If people have appointments to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, we want them to keep those appointments, we have great faith in the effectiveness of those vaccines and they have very strong safety profiles.”
Second, he added, that for the millions who have already received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the overall risk of developing the rare, severe clot seen in six recipients thus far, is minimal.
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“I know that people have questions about this given the cases they heard about, but keep in mind that more than 7 million people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and we feel quite confident that the vast, vast majority of them are just going to be fine,” he said. “Third, just remember, this is your safety system working for you, what you are seeing right now. A signal came up, the FDA and CDC jumped on it and decided to investigate thoroughly and that’s what’s happening. That if anything, I believe, should increase people’s confidence that they are being told what’s going on and that any signals are being investigated.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, also addressed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s decision to extend the pause in order to collect more data and continue weighing the risk-benefit of the vaccine. Walensky said that the agency “recognizes the critical importance of moving quickly” during the investigation.
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“What I would say to the American people is what we found is really extremely rare cases through our vaccine safety monitoring system,” Walensky said, adding that the next ACIP meeting slated for next Friday would be made public for transparency.
She also urged Americans to continue rolling up their sleeves to receive either the Moderna or Pfizer jab as the country sees an increase in daily case counts, hospitalizations and deaths. Walensky warned that the increasing prevalence of variants, namely the U.K. B.1.1.7 strain, which now accounts for upwards of 44% of U.S. cases, threatens to undo the progress made thus far.
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She said the recent drive in new cases is due to relaxed mitigation measures and that the illnesses “threaten to overwhelm our health care system again in parts of the country.”
Earlier in the briefing, Andy Slavitt said $1.7 billion made available through the American Rescue Plan would go toward genomic sequencing for the detection and surveillance of emerging variants.