The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has just been released for use again. It was temporarily taken off the market when a “pause” was called for by the Biden administration after some rare cases of blood clots were discovered. The CDC now reports a total of 15 cases were found, all in women and mostly under the age of 50 years, out of over 8 million people vaccinated. Three of these women died.
To put this in perspective, the risk of blood clots is much higher from Covid-19 disease than from the vaccines associated with these complications. Blood clotting all over the body is one complication of severe forms of the disease. About 15% to 20% of Covid-19 patients who are admitted to intensive care units develop blood clots, according to Dr. Jean Connors, a hematologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Nevertheless, anxiety about vaccination is growing. It now appears that the supply of vaccines will soon outpace the demand. The Kaiser Family Foundation said this week that the country will likely reach a tipping point on vaccine enthusiasm by Mid-May, when supply outstrips demand. The Wall Street Journal reports the U.S. weekly average of vaccine doses administered, which has been generally rising since mid-December, ticked downward last week. The number of people receiving their first dose fell sharply, from a 7-day average of 1.9 million April 11 to 1.4 million April 17.
Enthusiasm for the Covid-19 vaccines has waxed and waned. When vaccines began to be rolled out, about a third of the population wanted to receive one as soon as possible and about 40% were unsure or wanted to wait and see. After successful rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, many of those who were initially reluctant wanted to be vaccinated. However, the proportion who definitely didn’t want vaccination remained roughly about 20%.
Below is a chart depicting the percentage of state residents who have been vaccinated. Overall, 28% of the population is fully vaccinated, while 52% have received at least one dose of vaccine.
What percentage of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity?
I addressed this question in an earlier post (Herd Immunity is Near) but it remains controversial. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical expert for the Biden administration, says we must have 70 – 85% of the population vaccinated. But inexplicably, this ignores the impact of natural immunity, which is achieved when someone contracts the Covid-19 virus and survives.
Dr. Marty Makary, professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, estimates over half the population of California has natural immunity today. This is based on data from the California Department of Public Health that found at least 38.5% had antibodies against Covid-19 as early as February. Extrapolating this data two months later suggests over half of Californians have natural immunity. If this is representative of the nation, herd immunity may be achieved very soon.
The next phase of the vaccination effort will center on making it easier for people to get vaccinated, according to Jeffrey Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator. The government will also double down on vaccine education and measures to strengthen confidence in the vaccine.
The release of the J & J vaccine is an important step in vaccinating more Americans, especially those who are homebound or homeless. If you’re nervous about the J & J vaccine, find a site that will give you the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, although I believe the J & J vaccine benefits far outweigh the risks. But above all, get vaccinated – unless you have a health condition that prohibits it or your doctor has advised against it.