The Black Coalition Against COVID supports the recent decision made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to place a temporary hold on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
We know that our community has questions about what this means for those of us who have been or were planning to be vaccinated with this product. As Black health professionals, we are sharing the science-based facts that are publicly available, with the goal of keeping our Black brothers and sisters focused on getting vaccinated as soon as they have access to do so. Here’s what we know right now:
- More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered to date
- As of today, the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have reports that six women between the ages of 18 and 48 were diagnosed with a serious medical condition called Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST), which involves blood clots in the brain. Their symptoms occurred between six and 13 days after they received the vaccine
- Given what we know now, events associated with the Johnson & Johnson are extremely rare— approximately 1 in a million. Also, it is important to know that the number of reported vaccine related cases of these brain clots are much less than the number of cases reported in women who take birth control pills, and both of these are dwarfed by the number of such clots resulting from the COVID-19 virus itself. And let’s not forget that in this country alone, more than 560,000 people have died from the virus so far
There are two reasons why we support this decision.
First, we encourage people to have confidence in vaccine recommendations, as they are grounded in our best understanding of the science of the vaccine and its effect on the human body, and in our ability to monitor the effects of vaccines after they are introduced into the population.
That’s what happened here.
A potential problem was detected and, acting out of an abundance of caution, scientists are now able to carefully study the cases to determine if these incidents are related to the vaccine, to discover the causes of these concerning effects and to provide time to figure out what changes, if any, need to be made in the guidance that informs who should, or should not, receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Secondly, physicians and other health professionals need to have the best possible information in case they have patients who report symptoms that may be associated with these clots and how they can appropriately evaluate and, when necessary treat these people. For your information, you should consult your health professional if you are within three weeks of receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and notice an unusually severe headache; trouble breathing; belly pain; or one-sided leg or arm swelling or difficulty moving them.
Finally, let us remember that tens of millions of people in the U.S. have been vaccinated safely with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the past several months and more than 45 percent of the eligible U.S. population has received at least one vaccine dose. We have observed no significant safety concerns associated with the millions of people already vaccinated by these two vaccines.
We are in a desperate race to the finish line to end this pandemic and get our lives back. We are of course now aware that the variants to the original COVID-19 viral strain have now taken over in our country. Especially worrisome is that the United Kingdom variant is now the dominant strain and it is significantly more transmissible and results in more severe illness than its predecessor. Fortunately, the U.S. government has secured enough Pfizer and Moderna doses for 300 million Americans, which is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of 3 million shots per day.
All of us at BCAC urge each person eligible to be vaccinated to do so in the coming days. We are as close to ending this pandemic as we are to going all the way back to the beginning of the pandemic. Who wins depends on each one of us. It depends on each of us deciding to be vaccinated as soon as possible. It depends on us deciding to continue wearing our masks, practicing physical distancing, and not congregating in indoor settings.
We will keep you apprised of developments on this and other COVID-19 matters so stay tuned and stay safe.