Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The FDA’s decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine has set off a chain reaction of fear — about the safety of the vaccine, and about whether the FDA is overreacting — that's causing unnecessary drama just as the vaccine effort is finally picking up speed.

The big picture: Throughout the pandemic, the public and the media, and sometimes even regulators, have struggled to keep risks in perspective — to acknowledge them without exaggerating them, and to avoid downplaying them because other people will exaggerate them.

Reality check: The FDA did not say that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s risks outweigh its benefits, and it certainly did not cast any doubt on the other two vaccines available in the U.S.

  • At the same time, the FDA also is not obligated to keep potentially serious side effects a secret because they will affect fewer people than the coronavirus. Discovering and responding to new safety information is how this system is supposed to work.

Details: The number of reported blood clots is low — just six patients out of the roughly 7 million who have gotten a J&J shot.

  • Several other common medications, including birth control, carry a higher risk of blood clots than that. And the coronavirus causes a far higher incidence of blood clots than any of them, in addition to the many other ways in which it is highly dangerous.
  • You wouldn’t know that from the immediate reaction to yesterday’s announcement. Axios’ Neal Rothschild notes that of the 20 most-engaged stories on social media about the Johnson & Johnson pause, just two headlines included the context that the blood clots were rare occurrences, according to data from NewsWhip.

That’s part of the reason critics feared the FDA was overreacting, allowing a very small number of adverse events to potentially undermine a very large number of people’s confidence in all-important vaccines. But that criticism is missing some context of its own.

  • One woman died from her blood clot, suggesting a potentially serious risk.
  • The number of incidents will likely grow, now that doctors and regulators are looking for them more closely. The FDA also said doctors need to be highly attuned to a vaccine-specific risk of blood clots because the standard treatment for blood clots can make this particular type of clot worse.
  • All six patients who experienced blood clots in the U.S. were adult women. The effects from Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are also similar to the side effects from AstraZeneca’s vaccine, and those two vaccines work in similar ways — enough commonality to warrant a closer look.

Between the lines: If some specific group would be better off taking one of the other vaccines, it’s good to figure that out, and to tell people.

What’s next: A federal vaccine advisory committee will meet today to discuss the safety issues.

Expand chart
Data: CDC and Simon Willison. Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

What we’re watching: J&J has been an important part of the effort to target specific vaccines to specific groups.

  • Because it’s only one shot, it’s been especially for useful for hard-to-reach populations that might not get a second shot, including homeless people and inmates. The one-shot dosing has also made it attractive to some younger people.
  • Adjusting to two-dose vaccines for at least some of those populations, at least for a while, will pose some challenges.

But the U.S. wasn’t using a ton of J&J doses to begin with, and the federal government has purchased enough of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — which have not been linked to any serious side effects — to vaccinate the vast majority of American adults.

  • Pfizer said yesterday that it can up its manufacturing capacity to help fill any gaps caused by the J&J pause.

The bottom line: This dichotomy — between exaggerated panic and exaggerated panic about other people’s exaggerated panic — isn’t helping anyone, in the public or in government, make smart decisions.

Go deeper

Apr 13, 2021 - Health

Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine has not led to blood clots following J&J reports

Photo: Steve Parsons/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna released a statement Tuesday reassuring people of the safety of its coronavirus vaccine hours after the FDA recommended pausing the administration Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines due to reported cases of "extremely rare" blood clots.

What they're saying: After over 64.5 million doses administered globally, a comprehensive assessment using data through March 22 "does not suggest an association with" blood clots in the brain or veins, Moderna said.

Updated Apr 13, 2021 - Health

FDA expects J&J vaccine pause to last "a matter of days"

Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

The U.S. FDA on Tuesday recommended an immediate halt of the use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, citing cases of a rare blood clot disorder that six women developed within two weeks of receiving the shot.

The latest: Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said at a briefing that she expects the pause to only last "a matter of days," as health officials investigate the data surrounding the "extremely rare" blood clots.

Apr 13, 2021 - Health

White House says J&J pause will not have "significant impact" on vaccination plan

Biden at the White Houe on April 6. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House said Tuesday that the FDA's recommendation that the U.S. pause use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine "will not have a significant impact" on the administration's vaccination plans.

Why it matters: The Biden administration says it has secured enough Moderna and Pfizer doses for 300 million Americans. The U.S. will be able to continue administering 3 million vaccine doses a day even without the Johnson & Johnson shot, according to the White House.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!