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Stakes are high with Johnson & Johnson vaccine | READER COMMENTARY

In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021 file photo, a pharmacist holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Bay Shore, New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021 file photo, a pharmacist holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Bay Shore, New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (Mark Lennihan/AP)

The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board did well to support transparency in public health while also acknowledging the likely rise in vaccine hesitancy among already hesitant populations (“Johnson & Johnson: Pause may be warranted, but panic over vaccines is not,” April 14).

However, there is more at stake with the Johnson & Johnson pause than just heightened vaccine hesitancy. The convenience and accessibility of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes it the most ideal solution to immunize those in hard-to-reach communities, those who can’t miss an extra day of work and even those who simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of two injections. Therefore, the temporary loss of the effective single dose shot will likely also result in a potentially harmful pause in vaccination rates among those already planning or willing to be immunized.

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So, where do we go from here?

The reality is that the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being paused in an effort to maintain public safety and scientific transparency. Now, we need to attempt to identify the consequences of this choice and create solutions to them. A 2016 study on vaccine uptake suggested that there are five determinants of vaccine coverage: access, affordability, awareness, acceptance and activation. In the wake of the Johnson & Johnson pause, the focus should be on ensuring continued convenience and access of a vaccine to those who are currently willing to be immunized. Second, promoting transparency and awareness of the risks and benefits to all available vaccines and, finally, enhancing vaccine acceptance through education and the guidance of community leaders.

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Alexis Mann, Baltimore

The writer is a doctoral candidate in the molecular microbiology and immunology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

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