The announcement Tuesday that federal officials are recommending a “pause” in the use of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is a blow to the war on COVID-19. But other options remain.
Word that federal officials have recommended a stoppage in the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine damages the nationwide effort to overcome the virus, but it need not be a serious setback.
The announcement is particularly hurtful to places like the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus that had hoped to use the single-dose vaccine in a vigorous effort to inoculate as many students as possible before they leave campus this spring. Only about a month remains in the spring semester, so the recommendation about the J&J vaccine makes it virtually impossible to vaccinate all UI students in that time.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was the third to be put into use, and only about 7 million people have received it. That is well below the number who have received the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots, which together are now going into the arms of Americans at a rate of 23 million people each week.
There have been no significant health concerns voiced about those widely-used vaccines. Even the incidence of problems with the Johnson & Johnson shot is low, with six cases of unusual blood clotting reported so far.
But one woman died, and a second woman is hospitalized in critical condition, making the “pause” in distribution a prudent move.
But it need not be an impediment to the nation’s recovery from COVID-19. Production and distribution of the other vaccines has been ramped up. Already 36 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one coronavirus jab, and 22 percent are fully vaccinated. Champaign County (33 percent fully vaccinated) is well above the national average, and the rest of Illinois (22 percent) is at it.
As long as we continue to mask up, keep a safe distance apart indoors and spend profuse amounts of time outdoors in the coming months, we can make major progress against the virus. Federal officials still believe that as many as 230 million Americans can be inoculated by the end of May. That’s an impressive number, a gigantic step from where we were a year ago.
No one believed the fight against the virus would be easy or without its setbacks. This is just another test of our resolve.