116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
For the past year, many of my political allies have been worried that the government might force us to take vaccines. Far from a vaccine mandate, the government instead is inhibiting vaccine access.
Federal health officials this past week recommended pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine following reports that a handful of people developed serious blood clots after getting the shot. Iowa complied and advised providers to pause administration.
It’s one of the first times Iowa officials promptly and fully followed a federal recommendation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We might have picked a bad time to fall in line.
Reported complications from vaccines are extremely rare, and the vaccines appear to be extremely effective, especially at preventing severe illness and death. To the best of our knowledge, it is much more dangerous to go unvaccinated than to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or any other authorized vaccine.
“We are in a race between vaccinating as many people as quickly and expeditiously as we possibly can, and the threat of the resurgence of viruses in our country,” presidential adviser Anthony Fauci said during a U.S. House hearing.
If this is a race, we are hares napping on the course.
There’s too much red tape and not enough get-up-and-go.
At an emergency meeting, a panel of vaccine experts declined to take up the question of whether to lift the hold. The decision to punt was met with controversy as some representatives at the meeting favored a quicker resumption.
“Any extension of the pause will invariably result in the fact that the most vulnerable individuals in the United States, who were prime candidates for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, will remain vulnerable,” said Nirav Shah, liaison to the committee, as reported by Bangor Daily News.
I voluntarily and happily got the shot. I’m one of about 6.8 million people to be injected with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and not experience any significant negative effects so far. If I knew then what I know now, I still would have rolled up my sleeve.
It seems likely that officials eventually will recommend restarting the halted shots, perhaps with gender and age guidelines, but the clock is ticking. Short of recommending a pause — which the vast majority of state governments and vaccine providers are apparently heeding — overseers could have disclosed the potential risks, continued investigating and allowed consumers to make our own choices about what we want injected into our bodies.
Johnson & Johnson has played a small but important role in the nation’s pandemic plan. The one-dose vaccine — compared to two doses for Moderna and Pfizer — only makes up about 5 percent of the nearly 2 million shots administered in Iowa.
Despite some manufacturing and distribution setbacks, it’s filling an important need. It has less stringent cold storage requirements, making it easier to deliver to hard-to-reach areas. The single dose is a good option for people who can’t or won’t make it to two separate vaccine appointments.
In Iowa this week, organizers canceled vaccine clinics meant for university students and underserved populations. Some people whose appointments were canceled probably will not bother to make other plans. Some of them may get infected and develop serious illness, or pass the virus on to others who are at high risk.
It is yet another reminder that our government and health care bureaucracies are not built for an infectious disease pandemic that even at this late stage is racking up tens of thousands of known cases and hundreds of deaths each day. There’s too much red tape and not enough get-up-and-go.
At the start of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention barred labs from administering their own COVID-19 tests, while the government’s initial testing kit turned out to be faulty. The failure to track and contain the disease early on undoubtedly exacerbated the crisis.
Just last month, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for widespread at-home COVID-19 testing. The timing would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous — the technology has been available for a year, but the government wouldn’t let us use it.
On almost every important aspect of the COVID-19 response — testing, treatment, masks, vaccines — federal regulators have been fickle, sluggish and opaque. When they do the right thing, it’s often because they make exceptions to their rules.
Bureaucrats thrive on meetings, timelines, paperwork, approvals and proper procedure. Too often, they prioritize potential negative effects of action over the clear costs of inaction. In a pandemic, bureaucracy can be deadly.
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