Panicked patients call doctors as Covid vaccine hesitancy rises with J&J blood clot issue

More Americans are likely to refuse to receive the Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson after U.S. health officials said six women developed a rare bleeding disorder with one dead and another in critical condition, experts said for public health and vaccines using CNBC on Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration asked states early Tuesday to temporarily stop using J & J’s single-shot vaccine “out of caution” after six women aged 18 to 48 out of the roughly 6.9 million people who received the shot developed blood. A coagulation disorder known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, or CVST.

All women developed the condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in the venous sinuses of the brain that prevents blood from flowing back to the heart within about two weeks of receiving the shot from the brain, health officials told reporters on a phone call .

“People who have recently received the vaccine in the past few weeks should be aware if they are looking for symptoms,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the deputy chief director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a press conference on Tuesday. “If you have received the vaccine and have severe headache, stomach pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath, you should contact your doctor and see a doctor.”

Shortly after the FDA issued the warning, more than a dozen states and pharmacies took steps to stop vaccinations with J & J’s vaccine, sometimes replacing scheduled appointments with the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines. Some doctors say they are already taking calls from worried patients.

People were already skeptical about vaccines before the coronavirus emerged as a brand new pathogen from China in December 2019. U.S. health officials’ warning to states may be even more reluctant to take J & J’s shot and the other vaccines, and threatens to block the vaccine Health experts warned CNBC of the recovery from the pandemic affecting more than 31.2 million Americans infected and killed at least 562,718 people in just over a year.

“Unfortunately, this is likely to exacerbate those who are a little hesitant about getting a vaccine,” said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist who served on several drug data and safety oversight panels. “Senior public health officials need to continue to be open, honest, transparent, and most importantly, contextualize that this is a low risk.”

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer, the goal is to vaccinate between 70% and 85% of the US population – or about 232 to 281 million people – to achieve herd immunity and suppress the pandemic.

To date, more than 120 million Americans, or 36% of the total US population, have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. Around 74 million Americans, or 22% of the total US population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Children under the age of 16 are not yet eligible to shoot in the United States, and some adults are likely to refuse to get a vaccine.

“This throws a wrench into the plans. It will slow down the rollout,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. “People will say, ‘I don’t want this, I want one of the others who don’t have this problem,’ even if it’s an extremely rare occurrence.”

Some Americans, especially in black, Hispanic, and rural communities, have already been reluctant to get the J&J vaccine, especially because they found it to be worse than Pfizer and Moderna’s. The highly effective J&J shot, especially against serious illnesses, showed 72% effectiveness in protecting against Covid in the US about a month after inoculation. This is comparable to the effectiveness of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna of about 95%.

Single-dose vaccines like J&J were critical in “getting into communities where a two-dose regimen was impractical or even possible,” Kahn said. US health officials used J & J’s vaccine primarily to reach poorer urban and rural areas where residents could not easily get to a vaccination clinic or did not have reliable internet access.

“These communities are also the hardest hit by Covid,” said Kahn. “Using J&J interrupt … one stroke to do this effectively and quickly.”

Dr. Stephen Schrantz, who was part of the team leading a J&J vaccine study at the University of Chicago Medicine, said he already had patients who didn’t want the J&J vaccine and said the news would give them more evidence give to say, “See, I told you.”

“I suspect that vaccine adoption and uptake will slow down, there will be a move away from the J&J vaccine even if the CDC and FDA conclude that there is no causal link,” he said. “And when the mask comes off, there may be more cases like we have in Michigan that show up elsewhere.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who sits on Pfizer’s board of directors, predicted the move will nonetheless fuel some people’s “reluctance” to get a Covid vaccine.

“Even if there is no causal link, even if it is extremely rare, we will see that the whole conversation is now ignited on social media,” he told CNBC in an interview.

Dr. Purvi Parikh, an infectious disease allergy and immunology specialist at NYU Langone Health, described the FDA warning Tuesday as a “double-edged sword” and said it would likely raise concerns for already reluctant Americans. She also said she had already received “panic calls” from her own patients about the J&J vaccine.

“But if anything, I would like to repeat again: This only gives me more confidence in our system because these security checks work. Hopefully it will give some people peace of mind,” she added on “Squawk on the Street”. “” “Again, to look at the bigger picture, the benefits still far outweigh the risks of this vaccination.”

Dr. Archana Chatterjee, pediatric infectious disease specialist and member of the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products, echoed Parikh’s remark. She added that there is nothing “unusual” in the way US health officials are addressing the problem.

“This is a normal procedure that occurs,” she said.

“But of course whenever a serious adverse event is reported about a vaccine that raises public concern,” she added. “If you talk about vaccine trust or vaccine reluctance, could it have an impact? It certainly is possible.”

Dr. Paul Offit, another member of the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Allied Biological Products, hopes Americans will be “rational” about the problem, adding that cases of blood clots seem extremely rare. He noted that convincing people in hard-to-reach communities could be a challenge.

“It should be reassuring to the people that the officials are still looking [at the vaccine,] even for rare side effects, “he said.

CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this article.

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