U.S. vaccinations started dropping during the Johnson & Johnson pause. Did Biden's team mess up?

Johnson and Johnson vaccine
(Image credit: Dirk Waem/Belga/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. halted use of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine on April 13 to study extremely rare cases of serious blood clots in a handful of vaccinated Americans, mostly women under 50, then lifted the stay 10 days later. The U.S. had built up to more than 3.3. million shots per day by April 13, but those numbers started dropping during the Johnson & Johnson pause for all three approved vaccines. The seven-day average is now 2.02 million shots a day, The Washington Post reports.

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White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on CNN Sunday that it was "not at all" a mistake for the Food and Drug Administration to suspend Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, and in fact it helped build confidence in oversight of the vaccines. "Doing the pause was the right thing," he argued.

While most of the world is struggling to get enough vaccine to meet demand, in the U.S., "states asked the federal government this week to withhold staggering amounts of COVID-19 vaccine amid plummeting demand for the shots, contributing to a growing U.S. stockpile of doses," The Associated Press reports. The slowing vaccination rate in the U.S., combined with more contagious variants, has led public health experts to conclude that vanquishing the coronavirus through herd immunity is now unlikely, in the U.S. — where vaccine hesitancy is high — or the world.

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Popular vectors of vaccine misinformation may be feeding hesitancy in some groups, and, The Wall Street Journal notes, "more than four months into the vaccination campaign, many of the people willing to get vaccinated have done so." But there is anecdotal evidence that the Johnson & Johnson halt was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for people already leery of getting vaccinated, as Paul Shelton at health-tech company AdhereHealth told the Journal. On the other hand, some officials involved in the U.S. vaccination effort also say there are groups that will only agree to getting Johnson & Johnson's one-and-done shot.

And there are lots of people still on the fence. "We can sometimes underestimate how thoughtful people can be about their decisions and what can look reactionary can sometimes just be people taking their time and thinking," Kimberly Hood, assistant secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health's office of public health, told the Journal.

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