For a few weeks this spring, the United States was a world leader in vaccines, administering shots to a larger share of its population than even the United Kingdom or Israel. But since the middle of April, our vaccine campaign has stalled. The average number of people getting a first or single dose is down almost 50 percent from its peak on April 13.
What’s notable about that date? Well, it just happens to be the same day that the CDC and the FDA recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
This is a coincidence too big to ignore, and so a lot of people haven’t ignored it. Several analysts and health-care experts have slammed the U.S. government for bringing America’s incredible vaccine acceleration to a sudden halt. (The Johnson & Johnson pause was lifted after 10 days). But a closer look at vaccine progress and polling suggests that this might not be the whole story.
What really explains America’s vaccine-slowdown mystery? Let’s consider a few explanations.
1. Blame the J&J pause
Don’t fight the obvious: Average daily vaccinations peaked the very same day—or, perhaps, the day after—U.S. health officials warned about the Johnson & Johnson vaccines. After April 13, first doses cratered simultaneously for every age group over 18, showing the same sharp reversal for 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, and people over 50, suggesting that Americans of all ages pulled back immediately from the vaccination line. The Washington Post, quoting a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, “The Johnson & Johnson pause did hurt vaccine acceptance.”