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We’re not seeing anything that is outside the bounds of what we typically see with new vaccines: Dr. Howard Forman

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Dr. Howard Forman, Yale School of Public Health Professor joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss the latest with the JNJ vaccine.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: But first, let's kick off things in the back half of our hours here today with the update on the vaccine front. As I said, six cases causing the brakes to be put on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine there, with doctors increasingly concerned about blood clotting issues.

And for more on the updates, we're watching play out a bit of a debate in the medical community around that pause. I want to bring on Dr. Howie Forman, Yale School of Public Health professor joins us now. And Dr. Forman, I mean, we were talking earlier with another doctor about what this means obviously you do no harm kind of the mantra in medicine but talk to me about this move to put the brakes on J&J's vaccine now.

HOWIE FORMAN: And look, I think one thing we have to understand-- and it became very clear watching the FDA press briefing earlier with the CDC-- is number one, this is extremely rare events that we're talking about right now. And number two, the pause is likely to be very, very brief. And they made very clear that there are two different components of their announcement.

One is the alert making sure that physicians know to be on the lookout for this, both for reporting purposes, but also to understand what the appropriate therapies are for these patients, because it's not a typical cerebral venous sinus thrombosis case. This is one that's accompanied by thrombocytopenia, which is a very different entity from what might have otherwise seemed to be a typical cerebral venous thrombosis.

When you take those things together, they decided that a pause was required in order to be able to get the communications out to the physician and clinical community so that patients will not be harmed. My hope is that this pause is very, very brief and that by Thursday or Friday, we're back to using J&J vaccine.

AKIKO FUJITA: And doctor, I know these are rare cases, but now you've got concerns about blood clots with Johnson & Johnson, as well as AstraZeneca. How fair are the comparisons between these two vaccines and the problems that we've seen pop up?

HOWIE FORMAN: Look, I think it's fair to say that both are using adenovirus vector, and therefore, the similar type of findings do seem to be related. We need to be able to get better answers on that. But I think what's most important to understand is, I'm not aware of any drugs out there or vaccines out there that don't have rare side effects that may be severe. So we just have to put this in proper context. We're not seeing anything that is outside the bounds of what we typically see with new drugs or new vaccines.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, that's why, doctor, I mean, having kind of the-- I mean, from someone who is not in the medical community, it seems like on the outside looking in that it would kind of be judged from the public as kind of an extreme step and coming out and issuing a warning here and saying, look, pause right now. I understand a measured response to that would be, oh, that sounds like a good idea because we want to protect everyone who's potentially getting this vaccine.

But when you think about the public perception now, if you are in an area where Johnson & Johnson might be the only vaccine that's afforded to you, what are your concerns now that it might impact prolonged impact here on the maybe the public's perception of the safety around Johnson & Johnson's vaccine?

HOWIE FORMAN: So over the next few days, hopefully, we're going to learn a lot more. If it is limited only to child bearing age women, then you might start to stratify who gets what vaccines. Or at least, you allow women to make the decision about whether they want to take what is still a tiny risk versus taking Pfizer and Moderna, which do not have this specific risk associated with it.

But every bit of evidence we have right now says that older women, all men, none of these risks are associated with these patients-- with these conditions. And not to mention that by having this communication piece out there, we may be able to minimize, if not completely eradicate, the risk of death or more serious complications from this risk. So we've seen one death. We've seen one patient in critical condition. It may be the case that the only reason they had that end result or that result currently is because we didn't know how to treat it. Now we do.

AKIKO FUJITA: Doctor, when you look at the overall timeline here, we've heard the president say that he expects to have all Americans vaccinated, or at least, have access to the vaccine, by the end of May. I know Johnson & Johnson has been a small part of it. But given that we're just a few days out from the vaccines being opened up to the general population, to what extent does that timeline or can that timeline still hold? Are we still looking at the end of May?

HOWIE FORMAN: I believe so. I believe this pause is going to be very brief. I believe that a person that three days ago would have gone to Johnson & Johnson probably will still make that decision if they measure all the known risks and benefits of it. But I do think we want to wait for the advisory committee to meet tomorrow. We want to see the FDA make a statement after that, presumably Thursday or Friday, and hopefully that the pause is released after that. And we go back to using the best available evidence to inform patients so that they can make the right decision for themselves.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yale School of Public Health professor, Dr. Howie Forman, appreciate you taking the time here to chat with us today.