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Vaccine transparency is ‘the best course of action’: Doctor

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Dr. Taison Bell, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the divisions of Infectious Diseases and Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers and Alexis Christoforous to discuss the latest on the coronavirus.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: But I want to go now to the latest on the coronavirus pandemic. We're joined now by Dr. Taison Bell, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease and Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia. So, doctor, we heard the news that the CDC said that blocking that middle seat on airplanes could reduce coronavirus exposure by as much as 57%, which seems really huge. I'm wondering if you think that the United States perhaps should make the move to require that all airlines block that middle seat, especially as we have more and more folks, essentially, trying to travel now?

TAISON BELL: Well, Kristin, it's always tricky when we talk about federal regulations and mandates. But it is encouraging to see that there are things that you can do to travel safely, that you can also do to mitigate the spread of virus. And not sitting directly next to someone. We know that the risk of transmission is high, particularly for longer flights, international flights, or cross-country flights. It's a good idea to try to do what you can to mitigate the spread, especially as people are going to be traveling more with vaccine recommendations out from the CDC saying that it's OK to travel more. We're going to see more of this. And so it's something to consider.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I wanted to ask you for a moment about that pausing of the J&J vaccine. You know, so many experts have come out and said that the benefits outweigh the risks of all of these vaccines. If that is true, were regulators too aggressive in deciding to pause the J&J vaccine? Is it going to do more harm than good, because now people may be fearful of not just getting the J&J vaccine, but getting any vaccine at all?

TAISON BELL: Well, I do think this is one instance where there are people on both sides of the aisle as to whether this was a good decision or not. But everyone has elements of truth to what they're saying. This is a very low-risk complication. It's a serious complication, on the order of about one in a million. Six cases reported among almost seven million vaccinated. One person, unfortunately, died. But we do have to make sure that vaccines are safe.

So I think the best course of action is to be open and transparent. And, I think, for three main reasons it was a good decision. So first, these particular blood clots are treated differently than the usual blood clots. Physicians see blood clots commonly all the time, and we usually use blood thinners called heparin products to treat them. But in this instance, these specific cerebral venous sinus thrombosis blood clots are treated differently. Using heparin products could potentially make it worse. And so getting that information out to clinicians, to patients, particularly who have had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, very important to know.

The second reason is, it is hard to pick up rare cases. And so doing a pause allows for us to learn more about the cases. There may be some more. Hopefully, not many more. But if they are in different demographic groups, that's important to know before you adjust recommendations going forward. And third, the interest in the long term is to really focus on making sure that people know that it's a safe and effective product. And I think that doing this this way now, publicly, rather than coming out later, is much better in the interest of long term trust and confidence in the vaccines.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right. Dr. Taison Bell, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia. Thanks so much.