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Confidence in Johnson & Johnson vaccine plummets after FDA issues 'pause'; more people now see it as unsafe than safe

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Dropped from a majority calling it safe to a plurality calling it unsafe

Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In a shock to efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued a call to "pause" the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over concerns of blood clotting.

According to a new Economist/YouGov poll, the government's move led to a sudden distrust of the vaccine among a large swath of the American people.

What happened?

As YouGov was conducting a poll on Americans' perceptions of the safety of four leading COVID vaccines — Moderna, Pfizer, Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson — the FDA issued its call to halt the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As a result, the survey was able to offer a real-time look at how the FDA's move impacted the perception of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And the results were telling.

Before the FDA announcement, a majority of Americans (52%) said they believed the vaccine was safe, and only 26% called it unsafe.

After the the FDA's pause, those numbers shifted dramatically, as a plurality (39%) said they considered the vaccine unsafe — a 13-point jump. The share of respondents who said the vaccine was safe dropped 15 points to 37%.

According to the survey, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was polling nearly as well on the safety question as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines before the FDA made its call.

Prior to the government's move, 59% of Americans said the Moderna vaccine was safe, and 58% said the same of the Pfizer shot, while, as noted above, Johnson & Johnson came in at 52%.

Johnson & Johnson was also outperforming the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not available in the U.S. and was viewed by only 38% of respondents as safe — until the FDA made its announcement.

YouGov said that the FDA's call for a halt did not impact the public's views of the other vaccines, writing on Twitter, "For those asking, there are no statistically significant differences between pre- and post-announcement sentiment toward other vaccines, and the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are seen about the same as they were in our last poll in late Feb."

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