Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | Get real – the chance you’ll die from J & J COVID vaccine is tiny

“Follow the Science” has become the COVID battle cry. A few days ago, we all awoke to the headlines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended a “pause” in administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine because of a rare blood clotting disorder in six women. Unfortunately, one of the women actually died.

Othelia Pryor
Othelia Pryor is founder of the Michigan Minority Health Coalition. (Courtesy photo)

I recognize that every life unnecessarily lost to this pandemic is precious and the nation’s health officials are charged with assuring the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. This I applaud. However, what causes me “pause” is citing the vaccine’s potential risk factor without a comparison of other risks we experience.

On February 27, 2021, the J & J vaccine was given Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. This single dose vaccine is advantageous for immunizing populations who may not have access to consistent healthcare or live in hard-to-reach areas. The researchers are currently investigating a possible link between the rare blood clotting disorder and the vaccine. If the link does exist, the odds of possible death resulting from the J & J vaccine is one in 6.8 million, the number of doses administered to date.

Related: Halted vaccine was key to reaching hard-to-reach Michigan. Now what?

You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, which kills one in every 500,000 people, than dying from the administration of the J & J vaccine.  If we used this logic put forth by the CDC in our daily lives, none of us would ever leave home, which bodes well in a pandemic.

Let’s look at some of the other risks we experience. The lifetime risk of dying in a car crash is 1 in 103 and the odds of dying in an airplane crash is 1 in 5.4 million. But we consider these reasonable risks for the advantage of living in the 21st Century.

Public health officials want 75 percent to 80 percent of the population vaccinated to reach that sacred herd immunity to stop the spread of this pandemic and return us to a normal semblance of a pre-COVID lifestyle. Let me be clear, I am not objecting to the caution exhibited by the CDC in pausing the J & J vaccine. I am objecting to the “naked” number without a proper comparison to other aspects of risk in our lives. Peddling fear of the J & J vaccine is not the way to increase vaccine confidence.

For those of you enamored with this risk analysis game, a Johns Hopkins collaboration has developed a site where you can enter your personal health data and actually determine your own risk of contracting COVID. I entered my data and found out that I have a lower than average risk of contracting the disease.

But since we are already progressing down the risk analysis rabbit hole, let’s try one more statistic. The National Parks Service reports a 1 in 2.1 million chance of being eaten by a bear. So in other words, you are three times more likely to be eaten by a bear than to die from administration of the J & J COVID vaccine.

Bon appétit.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

We're not just a news organization, we're also your neighbors

We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please donate and help us reach our goal of 15,000 members in 2021?

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate Now