Opinion: An abundance of caution and good science are the right way to build trust in vaccines

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All in all, the risk of blood clots from the J&J vaccine is extremely low when compared to the risk of blood clots in other contexts, writes Céline Gounder, who points to the fact that the six blood clot cases are out of over 1 million women in the 20-50 age group who have received doses of J&J.
Céline Gounder , MD, ScM, FIDSA is an internist, infectious disease specialist, and epidemiologist. She's the host of the Epidemic and American Diagnosis podcasts, the CEO of Just Human Productions , and a CNN medical analyst. She served on the Biden-Harris Transition COVID Advisory Board. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN) On Tuesday the US Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States. In six cases, women between the ages of 18 and 48 experienced a "rare and severe" blood clot after receiving the vaccine. This is out of over 1 million women in the 20-50 age group who have received doses of J&J.

Meanwhile, an estimated 1 in 5 people hospitalized for Covid-19 develops blood clots. All in all, the risk of blood clots from the J&J vaccine is extremely low when compared to the risk of blood clots in these other contexts.

It's normal for people to worry, but we're really bad at weighing risks. We tend to overemphasize the risk of action, like getting vaccinated, and underemphasize the risk of inaction, like not wearing a mask in a pandemic or not wearing your seat belt in the car. We worry about the risks of something new, like vaccines, but play down the risks we're used to, like getting in a car accident while driving to work.

The blood clots observed among these six women who received the J&J vaccine are similar to those seen among patients in Europe after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Both vaccines are based on modified adenoviruses, as are the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the Chinese CanSinoBIO vaccine.

Adenoviruses are just some of the viruses associated with the common cold, but the viruses in these vaccines have been altered so they can't replicate and infect the vaccine recipient. They've been modified to deliver the recipe for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human cells.…
Opinion by Céline Gounder
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