The Morning Jolt

Health Care

Feds Slam the Brakes on J&J Vaccine — over One-in-a-Million Risk

A medical worker prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in Chicago, Ill., April 6, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On the menu today: The CDC and the Biden administration slam the brakes on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine, over a risk of a blood clot that, according to the available statistics, is almost literally one in a million; the wave of migrants at the border continues, with quite a few arrests of violent criminals in the mix; and Senator-Reverend Raphael Warnock gets caught lying about the Georgia election-reform law.

The CDC Suddenly Halts Use of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The CDC and the Biden administration are slamming the brakes on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine:

Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause in use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination, officials briefed on the decision said.

All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition, the officials said.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the move was framed as a recommendation to health practitioners in the states, the federal government will pause administration of the vaccine at all federally run vaccination sites. Federal officials expect that state health officials will take that as a strong signal to do the same.

First, some basics: You want your blood to clot when you have a cut, but you don’t want gel-like clumps of blood getting stuck in other parts of your body, particularly your lungs or brain, because it can disrupt blood flow. Blood clots can form for all kinds of reasons, from prolonged sitting to pregnancy to smoking to arteriosclerosis and heart attacks — as well as COVID-19. While it is rare, birth-control pills can cause blood clots as well: “the rate for getting clots is about 0.3% to 1% over 10 years for a woman on the pill.” (Go back and check the demographics of the vaccinated individuals who developed blood clots after the J&J vaccine.)

The two most serious forms of blood clots are deep-vein thrombosis, which occurs most often in the large veins in the legs or thighs, and a pulmonary embolism, a condition in which one or more of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs become blocked. The CDC says that “the precise number of people affected by [deep vein thrombosis/ pulmonary embolism] is unknown, although as many as 900,000 people could be affected (1 to 2 per 1,000) each year in the United States.”

In other words, because six people, out of seven million, developed a condition that is found in one to two out of every thousand people in the general population, the federal government is halting the use of a vaccine that protects against a virus that, in the past week, is has killed about 750 people per day.

Could the Johnson & Johnson vaccine cause blood clots? Sure. But considering all of the other potential causes of blood clots, there’s a considerable chance that one or all of these women developed blood clots coincidentally.

Apparently, we’re not that different from the Europeans, in that a handful of cases that might be connected to a vaccine, out of millions of patients, are enough to get us to halt the use of a vaccine. Back when the Europeans stopped using the AstraZeneca vaccine for about a week, I noted that based upon the available data, an individual person’s odds of developing blood clots after receiving that vaccine were one in 459,459; for perspective, the U.S. CDC says that your odds of being struck by lightning are one in 500,000. After pausing to review the data, the European Medicines Agency offered the worst of both worlds: It declared the vaccine safe but still put a warning label about blood clots, which is only going to fuel more fear and skepticism.

By the way, that EMA warning states that: “EMA is reminding healthcare professionals and people receiving the vaccine to remain aware of the possibility of very rare cases of blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets occurring within 2 weeks of vaccination. So far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within 2 weeks of vaccination. Based on the currently available evidence, specific risk factors have not been confirmed.” They did this after reviewing 86 cases . . . out of 25 million vaccinated individuals, which calculates to a one in 290,697 odds.

At some point, in the not-too-distant future, we’re going to see a survey indicating a surprisingly high level of vaccine hesitation or wariness, and the authoritative talking heads will ask, “Why do so many people believe the vaccines are unsafe?” Maybe it’s because our government officials and the Europeans stopped using the vaccines for a theoretical one-in-a-million risk!

Meanwhile, down on the Border . . .

Since Thursday morning, on the U.S.–Mexico border:

From October to March, in the current fiscal year, the Customs and Border Patrol has apprehended 5,018 individuals with criminal convictions — about double the total for fiscal year 2020, higher than fiscal year 2019, and below the total for fiscal year 2018. Those apprehended so far this year have been convicted of 576 counts of assault, battery, and domestic violence; 265 sexual offenses; 381 counts of burglary; 162 counts of illegal weapons possession or transport; 832 counts of driving under the influence; and three counts of homicide or manslaughter. (One individual may be convicted of more than one of those crimes.)

None of these events are considered particularly big news, and yet the scale of them ought to be. Yes, there are a lot of vulnerable families and innocent children attempting to cross the border. There are also a considerable number of violent criminals attempting to slip through the cracks.

This morning, there is no mention of these particular events or the situation at the border on the front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or USA Today. CNN mentions that the Biden administration has secured agreements for Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to tighten their borders with more troops in an effort to stem the flow of migration.

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness against Thy Neighbor, Reverend

I think we need a bipartisan resolution denouncing elected officials who spread disinformation:

Biden at one point said the law would reduce voting hours, an apparent reference to a proposal to curtail early-voting hours that was not included. Sen. Raphael G. Warnock, one of two new Democratic senators representing Georgia, signed an email sent out by the advocacy group 3.14 Action after the law passed, which claimed it ended no-excuse mail voting and restricted early voting on the weekends — also early proposals that did not become law.

So, he lied, is what you’re saying.

ADDENDUM: In case you missed it yesterday, the New York Times has a fantastic map that shows the number of new cases in the past week, adjusted for population in every county in the country. The problem is that when the map visualizes the rate of new cases per 100,000 people, sparsely populated places such as Grant County, Ore., and Motley County, Texas, look as if they’re getting hit as hard as Wayne County, Mich. But Grant County’s average of 7.1 new cases per day and Motley County’s 1.1 new cases per day are simply not as worrisome as Wayne County’s 1,457 new cases per day.

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