'It Isn't a Cancellation': What Dr. Fauci Has Said About Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci is defending the decision to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, arguing that it is an "affirmation that safety is a primary consideration."

Speaking to CNN's John Berman on Wednesday morning, Fauci added, "that's why it was done and that's why it's a pause. It isn't a cancellation. It's a pause."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have called for the United States to halt administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six recipients developed a "rare and severe" type of blood clot.

The two agencies will complete reviews of the cases, all of which occurred among women between 18 and 48, with their symptoms developing six to 13 days after vaccination. The pause, CDC and FDA officials said Tuesday, is expected to last a "matter of days."

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that he expects the timeline to be "days to weeks" not "weeks to months." In another interview with NBC's TODAY show, he said: "I don't think this is going to drag out."

Fauci explained during a White House press briefing Tuesday afternoon that the pause will give the federal agencies time to investigate the incidents and allow time to "make physicians out there aware of this."

The nation's top infectious disease expert also stressed during the briefing that "this is a really rare event."

"If you look at what we know so far, there have been 6 out of the 6.85 million doses, which is less than one in a million," he said. "So, remember, this is something that we always—out of a—really, out of an abundance of caution...to give us the time to take a good look at it and see if we can get further information."

The White House also released a direct explainer of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause featuring Fauci on its Twitter page.

Here’s what you need to know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause: pic.twitter.com/hsegQLUztG

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 13, 2021

Fauci on Tuesday evening provided more details about the six cases and what recipients should be aware of to CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell. He said that the "adverse event" appears to occur between six and 13 days after receiving the shot. Symptoms to be aware of are severe headaches, difficulty with movements, chest discomfort or difficulty breathing.

"If you're beyond four weeks and you've had it a month or two ago, I don't think you really need to worry about anything," he said.

When asked if the issue behind the blood clots could be hormonal given that all the cases involved women of child-bearing age, Fauci replied "absolutely."

"That's one of the things we want to investigate," he added. "There have been similar types of phenomena that have occurred during pregnancy. Clotting abnormalities are known in women who take birth control pills. So certainly there could be a hormonal aspect to this."

Fauci added that the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine "has nothing to with efficacy" and that the shot is "still a very highly efficacious vaccine for preventing COVID-19."

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Dr. Fauci press briefing J&J vaccine
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci speaks during a press briefing at the White House, where he talked about a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on April 13, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images