with Alexandra Ellerbeck

Some experts predicted the Biden administration’s temporary pause on use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine would worsen vaccine hesitancy. 

Now a new poll indicates it did result in fewer Americans being willing to get that vaccine and the shots made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Nearly 1 in 5 unvaccinated adults say they changed their minds about getting vaccinated because of the pause.

In a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 9 percent of unvaccinated adults said the pause made them less likely to want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Seven percent said it made them less likely to want any of the vaccines. And 4 percent said it changed their thoughts about the vaccines in some other way.

The findings seem to support concerns that suspending use of the vaccine for a week and a half in April would undermine public confidence in it.

Federal health agencies were initially reacting to six cases of severe blood clots among 7 million Americans who had received the single-dose shot. Ten days later, after ultimately reviewing 15 cases in which people developed clots, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to resume the shots.

But some vaccine experts questioned the decision to pause use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine at all, considering how extremely rare the cases were. As we noted at the time, even younger people in their 20s and 30s were far, far more likely to die of covid-19 than of complications from the vaccine.

The Johnson & Johnson pause had a particular effect on Hispanic women.

The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 39 percent of Hispanic women said the pause changed their thinking on vaccines, with 15 percent saying that the pause made them less likely to want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 18 percent saying that it made them less likely to want any vaccine.

Yet the poll showed no drop in overall willingness to get vaccinated.

Sixty-four percent of adults said they have already received it or want it as soon as possible, similar to 61 percent who gave that answer in March, before the Johnson & Johnson pause. Similarly, in a Gallup poll, 75 percent said they would agree to be vaccinated in mid-to-late April, almost identical to 74 percent in March. 

The KFF poll also found Republicans are increasingly willing to get the shots.

A majority of Republicans (55 percent) now say that they have received a coronavirus vaccine or plan to do so as soon as possible. That’s a big uptick from the 46 percent of Republicans who expressed enthusiasm about the vaccines in March.

Participants in an April 29 focus group describe what made them decide to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. (Courtesy of Frank Luntz and de Beaumont Foundation)

But a significant minority of Republicans remain firmly opposed to getting a vaccine. One in 5 say that they will “definitely not” get vaccinated. That’s lower than the 29 percent who were staunchly opposed to a shot in March, but still a big enough number that experts fear it could pose an obstacle to reaching the high levels of immunity needed to stop the spread of the virus.

White House officials and public health experts have been working to target vaccine messages to this group, as our colleague Dan Diamond has reported.

Parents are divided on whether to vaccinate their children.

About 3 in 10 parents say that they will get their child vaccinated as soon as it is authorized for their kid’s age group. But a similar share of parents, about one-third, say that they will wait until more children have received the vaccines. The remaining third of parents say that they will definitely not get their kids vaccinated or will only do so if required by their school. 

Coronavirus vaccine makers have started clinical trials to test their vaccines on infants and teenagers, a crucial step toward controlling the pandemic. (Luis Velarde/The Washington Post)

No vaccine has been approved yet for kids under 16, but that could soon change. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for use in kids ages 12 to 15 by next week, and the company has said it plans to seek emergency authorization for the use of its vaccine in kids as young as 2 by the fall. 

Children are at low risk from the coronavirus, and a large body of research suggests that kids can attend school safely without vaccines. But public health experts say that vaccinating kids could help reduce transmission to more vulnerable adults and could increase confidence among parents who are wary about sending their kids back to the classrooms at the start of the next school year. 

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health:

It’s gotten easier to get the vaccines, but some Americans still face barriers.

All U.S. adults are now eligible to receive a vaccine. As access to the shots has expanded, the share of Americans who say that they want a coronavirus vaccine but have not yet gotten one has gone down.

With the most eager Americans already vaccinated, the rolling rate of new vaccinations has dropped significantly since its peak in mid-March. 

The KFF poll found that about 1 in 10 Americans want shots and haven’t gotten them. 

Among unvaccinated adults who say they want a shot as soon as possible, a majority (61 percent) have not yet attempted to make an appointment. Lack of information, difficulty in taking time off work and being too busy to schedule a shot were among the reasons cited for not making an appointment.

Ahh, oof and ouch

AHH: The CDC says the coronavirus could come under control in the U.S. by the summer if people get vaccinated.

Infections could be driven to low levels in the United States by July if the vast majority of people get vaccinated and continue with precautions, according to a “strikingly optimistic” report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Joel Achenbach and Lena H. Sun write. The report models four different potential scenarios based on assumptions about vaccination rates, vaccine efficacy and precautions against the virus.

Each of the scenarios envisions a dramatically improved landscape by the summer. 

  • In the less optimistic scenarios, hospitalizations numbers will vary significantly from state to state.
  • Under the most optimistic scenario, deaths from the virus could drop into the 100s per week by August and even lower by September. Currently more than 4,000 people a week are dying from the disease.
  • But that model assumes 90 percent of eligible people get the shot, which appears to be a stretch given high rates of vaccine hesitancy.

“The results remind us that we have the path out of this, and models, once projecting really grim news, now offer reasons to be quite hopeful for what the summer may bring,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. 

Experts caution that there are still many unknown variables, including the spread of new virus variants. While the researchers took into account the dominance of the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain of the virus, the models do not account for what would happen if an even more problematic variant were to spread. 

OOF: The Biden administration will waive vaccine patents.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the United States will move forward with international discussions to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines. The move, which is staunchly opposed by drug companies, represents a shift for the United States, which helped block a World Trade Organization proposal to lift the protections last year, The Post’s Dan Diamond, Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein report.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” Tai said in a statement.

Senior administration officials told The Post the decision was finalized during a White House meeting on Tuesday that included President Biden, Tai, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients, and Bruce Reed, deputy chief of staff for policy.

“Liberals had lobbied Biden to move quickly as coronavirus cases are surging in India and around the world. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and colleagues celebrated Biden’s decision as a necessary step for saving lives while restoring America’s position on the global stage,” our colleagues write. 

“But the drug industry claimed that the move would backfire, with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America predicting that allowing more manufacturers to begin making shots would spark new competition for limited ingredients, slow down existing production and even lead to counterfeit vaccines.”

OUCH: The U.S. birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in decades.

New provisional data from the CDC shows that roughly 3.6 million babies were born in the United States in 2020, marking a 4 percent decline from the previous year and the lowest number of births since 1979. The pandemic appeared to supercharge an already-existing downward trend in birth rates.

“The steepest decline occurred in the last part of the year, when the first babies conceived during the U.S. pandemic would have been born,” William Wan, Tara Bahrampour and Julianne McShane write for The Post. “Before the pandemic, American women were already having fewer children, doing it later in life or choosing to not have children at all. The newly released data indicated a sharpening of that trend.”

Experts believe that disruptions to child care, jobs and social life caused by the pandemic may have led some Americans to hold off on plans to have children.

But while the long-term effect of the pandemic on birthrates remains to be seen, the impact may be small in comparison to the overall downward trend in fertility. The U.S. birthrate has fallen to 1.73 births per woman, from a peak of 3.77 births in 1957. 

More in coronavirus news

  • Couples are frustrated about a D.C. ban on dancing at weddings, The Post’s Jenna Portnoy reports. While physical distancing requirements throughout the pandemic effectively restricted dancing, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) made the prohibition explicit in a pandemic-related order last week. Under the order, guests at weddings and other one-time events must remain seated and socially distanced. “Standing and dancing receptions are not allowed,” the order says. The move comes as other states are easing restrictions on social gatherings.
  • The Biden administration’s health and housing departments are teaming up to bring coronavirus vaccines and tests to public housing and homeless shelters, The Post’s Amy Goldstein reports.
  • A federal judge ruled that the CDC overstepped its legal authority when it issued a nationwide eviction moratorium amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Post’s Kyle Swenson reports. The ruling could affect millions of Americans who are struggling to pay rent or otherwise lose their homes. But both landlords and tenants have found fault with the CDC’s order, which has left room for loopholes and varying legal interpretations. 
  • CVS announced that its pharmacies will start accepting walk-in appointments for coronavirus vaccines, in addition to allowing for same-day scheduling, The Hill’s Mychael Schnell reports.

On the Hill

The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on Black maternal health.

The committee will hear from experts and advocates about policy solutions to address the disproportionate risk of pregnancy-related complications and deaths for Black mothers. Black women are more than three times more likely to die from pregnancy compared to White women, and Black babies also have a higher infant mortality rate.

The Biden administration has said that it intends to make Black maternal health a policy priority. Last month, it labeled the week of April 11 through April 17 as Black Maternal Health Week in order to raise awareness about the racial disparities in maternal outcomes.

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