by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deserve much of the blame for plummeting vaccination rates. Public-health officials have botched their pandemic response and messaging nearly every step of the way — inadvertently stoking skepticism of the vaccines.
Take the CDC’s worst mistake: its decision, in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration, to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for ten days because of a risk of blood clots. The risk ended up being less than one in a million.
That overreaction triggered an immediate drop in public trust in the vaccine. Immediately after the CDC advised halting the J&J shot, the number of daily first doses of all vaccines administered plummeted by some 40 percent compared with weeks earlier.
Recent data have confirmed just how damaging that choice was. According to recent polling, more than 40 percent of unvaccinated Americans say that their biggest concern is that the J&J shot causes blood clots. More than one-quarter believe that every vaccine causes blood clots.
This poor decision-making has been the norm for the CDC since the beginning of the pandemic. The agency’s guidance seems to have been motivated more by armchair psychology than by hard data.
There’s no shortage of examples. Recall that in the pandemic’s earliest days, the CDC blocked doctors and labs from testing for the virus despite a suspicious upswing in people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
The CDC’s own COVID-19 test, released in early February 2020, ended up being dangerously flawed. Weeks passed before the agency permitted private labs to start making better tests.
In early April 2020, when the virus was killing 1,000 Americans every day, the CDC declared, “You do not need to wear a facemask.” The very next day, officials changed their mind — Americans needed to wear a “cloth face cover.”