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Could a Rare Covid Vaccine Side Effect Put More at Risk?

  • April 14, 2021

“I knew that I wanted to get the Johnson Johnson — the idea of it being one and done really appealed to me,” said Kayli Balin, 22, a freelance web designer and recent graduate of Wellesley College who was scheduled to get the Johnson Johnson vaccination on Tuesday — only to have her appointment canceled. Now she will get the Moderna vaccine, she said.

But amid the blizzard of news and social media attention around the “pause,” those gains may well be lost, especially if the rare blood clotting feeds politically driven conspiracy theorists and naysayers, who seemed to be losing ground as the rate of vaccinations ramped up.

“This is exactly the wrong situation at the wrong time at the very moment that Republicans are reconsidering their hesitancy,” said Frank Luntz, an American pollster who studies messaging for Republicans, a group that has exhibited high levels of skepticism about the coronavirus vaccines.

Brian Castrucci, an epidemiologist and head of the de Beaumont Foundation, which studies public health attitudes, said: “It’s an easy turn to, ‘If they kept this from us, what else have they kept from us?’ We need to get out in front of this very quickly. ”

The problem is getting the public to understand relative risk, said Rupali J. Limaye, who studies public health messaging at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She noted that the potential rate of blood clotting in reaction to the vaccine is much smaller than the blood clotting rate for cigarette smokers and for women who use hormonal contraception, although the types of blood clots differ.

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