This article, authored by Tara Law, was originally published by Time Magazine on April 20, 2021. In the article, public health experts Dr. Scott Ratzan and Heidi Larson share their expertise and discuss factors around both vaccine hesitancy and confidence across several major countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France.
When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended stopping use of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine on April 13, they declared the action a “pause”—a brief intermission as the government investigates a possible link between the vaccine and blood clots in a small number of recipients. The agencies may lift that recommendation as soon as this week, and vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots has continued.
However temporary it might be, a recent YouGov/Economist survey suggests that the J&J pause has already hurt U.S. public trust in the vaccine: Before the announcement, 52% of respondents said that the J&J shot was safe, compared with just 37% after the pause. (Trust in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appears unaffected, and a separate Axios-Ipsos poll found that most Americans believe the pause was the right move.) Those findings have fueled a debate among scientists, researchers and others: is it wise to pause a vaccine’s use after only six blood clotting cases were identified after 6.8 million shots were distributed, given the potential blow to public trust?
To help answer that question, we can look to Europe. After France and Germany temporarily halted use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine over similar blood clotting issues in March, skepticism of that shot among residents has increased precipitously, according to YouGov polling. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom—where use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was limited by age, rather than paused entirely—distrust has held relatively steady.