Fauci on Johnson & Johnson vaccine temporary pause: ‘We take safety very seriously’

Amr Alfiky/The New York Times/Bloomberg

(WASHINGTON) — Dr. Anthony Fauci said he hopes the temporary pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine raised Americans’ confidence in federal agencies’ concern for safety, rather than increased vaccine hesitancy.

“The CDC and the FDA are the gold standard for both safety and the evaluation of efficacy, I think in the long run what we’re going to see — we’ll probably see it soon — is that people will realize that we take safety very seriously,” the White House chief medical adviser told “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

“We’ve looked at it. Now let’s get back and get people vaccinated. And that’s what we’re going to be doing, get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can,” Fauci added.

On Friday, an independent government advisory panel voted in favor of resuming Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccinations but with a new general warning about the potential of extremely rare but serious blood clots. The Centers of Disease and Control and the Federal Drug Administration officially lifted the 10-day pause following the panel recommendation, issuing new fact sheets about potential side effects to medical providers and J&J vaccine recipients.

According to the CDC, 15 confirmed cases of rare blood clots were reported so far after nearly 8 million administered Johnson & Johnson shots. All of the cases reported were in women under 60, and three died.

“COVID-19 infection carries a much higher risk of blood clots — 147,000 in 1 million hospitalized COVID-19 patients experience clots, compared to roughly two in 1 million individuals who received the J&J vaccine,” American Society of Hematology President Martin S. Tallman, MD, said in a statement Friday after the pause was lifted.

Stephanopoulos asked Fauci to address a small population of people resistant to mass vaccinations, including Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who this week suggested on a radio show it’s not important for everyone to get a vaccine.

“What’s your response to that?” Stephanopoulos asked Fauci.

“If you look at the numbers there’s been about 570,000, Americans have died (of COVID-19),” Fauci responded. “We have a highly efficacious and effective vaccine that’s really very, very safe. That is the reason why you want everyone to get vaccinated, so I don’t understand the argument.”

Stephanopoulos also pressed Fauci if the United States should do more to help India, a country suffering with new record COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Their health care system could collapse if the situation doesn’t improve, what more can the United States be doing right now to help address this crisis?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“We really do need to do more, I mean I don’t think you can walk away from that,” Fauci said. “Even as we speak, George, there is discussions about really ramping up what we can do on the ground.”

“We have about 30 million doses of that AstraZeneca vaccine that aren’t approved for use here. Should we just be sending that over?” Stephanopoulos pressed.

Stressing he did not want to speak directly on policy, Fauci responded, “I think that’s going to be something that is up for active consideration.”

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