On Sunday, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper, Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator, insisted that the decision to put the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold had not had a deleterious effect on the effort to get Americans vaccinated, asserting his faith in the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “The FDA is the gold standard in the world,” he said. “And the FDA is constantly monitoring for safety. And doing the pause was the right thing. That builds confidence, that people know that the FDA and the CDC are monitoring.” He also insisted, “The research showed, after the pause, that confidence overall in the vaccines increased after the pause.”

Yet The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, “The 10-day halt in administering Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has made it harder to inoculate the hard-to-reach and hesitant, health officials said, complicating efforts to reach community vaccination goals.”

Paul Shelton, executive vice president of pharmacy at AdhereHealth LLC, told the Journal, “There is a portion of the population that because of the pause, that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, they’re not going to get vaccinated. They just evaporated.”

In mid-April, the FDA and CDC federal health officials recommended a pause in the distribution of the J&J vaccine after news broke that six women between the ages of 18 and 48 years who were vaccinated with the J&J vaccine had developed blood clots and one died. The doses administered to those women were among a massive total of 6.8 million doses that had been administered.

Dr. Anthony Fauci approved of the pause, claiming, “The fact that a pause was done, I think, is just a testament to how seriously we take safety.”

The day after the pause was announced, the Journal reported, “Vaccination sites across the country canceled thousands of appointments after U.S. health authorities paused the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 shots Tuesday over reports of rare but severe blood clots, while other sites scrambled to switch to one of the two other authorized vaccines.”

The FDA and CDC later lifted the advisory.

Tapper asked Zients, “Let’s talk about the fact that the pace of vaccinations is slowing down. Some of that is because of access, as you note, but some of it is because of vaccine skepticism. It’s now at 2.1 million doses a day, down almost 40 percent from its peak last month. Who are the key groups of Americans you’re focusing on targeting right now? Young Americans, Republicans, rural Americans? And how are you targeting them?”

“Well, it’s sort of all of the above, Jake,” Ziengts answered. “I mean, what’s happened is, we have gotten to 58 percent faster than we expected. So, we’re entering a new phase, where access is really important and building confidence is really important. So, that’s what we’re focused on. And I’d say it’s all of the above.”

“We want everyone to get vaccinated,” he continued. “We have enough supply for all adult Americans to get vaccinated. We just want to make it easier and easier for people to get vaccinated. And for those who do have questions about efficacy or about safety, the three vaccines, the three authorized vaccines, are all very safe and very effective. So, we want people to be able to turn to their — to their trusted leader in their neighborhood, their doctor, their faith leader, to get information about the vaccines to build vaccine confidence, so all Americans get vaccinated.”

“In retrospect, was it a mistake to put a hold on the J&J vaccine, in terms of confidence?” Tapper pressed. “Did that make your task harder?”

“No, not at all,” Zients insisted. “I mean, the FDA is the gold standard in the world. And the FDA is constantly monitoring for safety. And doing the pause was the right thing. That builds confidence, that people know that the FDA and the CDC are monitoring.”

“Not necessarily. I mean, it should build confidence,” Tapper suggested.

Zients then claimed, “It actually shows — the research showed, after the pause, that confidence overall in the vaccines increased after the pause.”

Here is what the CDC, which Zients cites as one of his authorities, shows about the effect the pause on the J&J vaccine had on Americans getting the three major coronavirus vaccines:


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