Chief medical adviser to the president Dr. Anthony Fauci joined TODAY Wednesday to discuss the recommendation that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine be paused in the U.S., explaining that he believes the news shows how seriously federal health agencies are taking vaccine safety.
TODAY co-anchor Savannah Guthrie raised to Fauci concerns that Tuesday's decision from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was an "overreaction," given that the blood clots related to the vaccine occurred in less than one in a million people and that many Americans are already wary of the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
"There are a couple of ways of looking at that," Fauci replied. "If you look at that on the other side of that coin, one of the most important reasons that people have hesitancy is that they're concerned about the safety. The very fact that you have two organizations, the CDC and the FDA, looking so carefully at this, making safety the primary concern, in my mind, confirms or underscores the situation that we take safety very seriously."
"I would think at the end of the day it could actually diminish hesitancy by saying, 'Boy, those people there, they're looking at that really carefully, and when they say something's safe, you can believe it's safe.' So it goes both ways."
Fauci also addressed how long he thinks the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will last, saying he believes it will be "days to weeks" rather than "weeks to months" before it will come back into use.
"They want to take a quick pause, take a look at it, see what's going on, see if there are any more details, and that's going to be it," he explained, adding that he is not aware of any additional cases of blood clots beyond the six women between the ages of 18 and 48 reported on Tuesday.
He went on to share advice for people have already received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"The first big of advice is really don't worry very much because ... it's a very, very rare event," Fauci said. "The second thing, the bracket of time when this occurs was between ... one and two weeks, so if you got your vaccine several weeks ago, then it makes it even less likely that you should have any concern at all."
"If you've had it within a few days, just stay heads up for symptoms, severe headache, abdominal pain, chest pain, things like that, but again underscoring it is a very, very rare event. So you don't want people who just received the vaccine to be overly worried about this. ... The pause is just as an abundance of caution to really scope out the situation a little more closely."
Another vaccine in use outside the U.S. created by AstraZeneca has also led to reports of very rare blood clots. Fauci said there could be a connection between the two.
"There are some rather strong similarities about this with regard to the time frame following vaccination, particularly importantly the clinical syndrome of these clots together with low platelets, so there are a lot of similarities there that you just can't miss that. It's pretty clear," he said.
On Tuesday, the FDA and CDC recommended that providers temporarily stop using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while they investigate a possible link to very rare blood clots.
Of the 6.8 million people who've received the vaccine, six women developed the blood clot. One person died and another is in critical condition, the FDA said.
"We are recommending this pause while we work together to fully understand these events, and also so we can get information out to health care providers and vaccine recipients," Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said during a briefing Tuesday. The review is expected to last a matter of days.
No blood clot issues have been reported with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, the two others in use in the U.S.