BRUSSELS — First it was AstraZeneca. Now Johnson & Johnson.
Last week, British regulators and the European Union’s medical agency said they had established a possible link between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and very rare, though sometimes fatal, blood clots.
On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson said it would pause the rollout of its vaccine in Europe and the United States over similar concerns, further compounding the continent’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back efforts to quickly get people immunized against the coronavirus.
European officials had been confident that they had secured enough alternative vaccine doses to take up the slack of the AstraZeneca problems and achieve their goal of fully inoculating 70 percent of the European Union’s adult population — about 255 million people — by the end of the summer.
On Tuesday, European officials did not immediately say whether they believed the milestone would also survive the Johnson & Johnson suspension. But the European commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakides, wrote on Twitter that “Today’s developments with the J&J vaccine in the US are under close monitoring” by the bloc’s medicines regulator.
months of short supplies and logistical problems.
There is mounting evidence that the concerns are eroding Europeans’ willingness to get the AstraZeneca vaccine in particular, and threatening to elevate already high levels of vaccine hesitancy generally.
YouGov poll published last month, 61 percent of the French, 55 percent of Germans and 52 percent of Spaniards consider the AstraZeneca vaccine “unsafe.” That is in stark contrast to the findings of a similar poll from February, when more people in those countries, with the exception of France, believed that the shot was more safe than unsafe.
Regulators have asked vaccine recipients and doctors to be on the lookout for certain symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches and tiny blood spots under the skin. Doctors’ groups have circulated guidance about how to treat the disorder.
In Poland, where the vaccination campaign relies to a large extent on AstraZeneca and where its use has not been restricted, a recent poll showed that given a choice, fewer than 5 percent of Poles would choose the AstraZeneca shot.
Almost everywhere across the European Union, it seems, many are eager for alternatives, as the new types of vaccines that include the Moderna and Pfizer, which utilize science known as “mRNA,” have not been associated with similar side effects.