A Hold on the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

By Aubrey Drohner, Mackenzie Morey, & Meghan Finger


The world we are living in today involves social distancing, face masks, and unexpected quarantines. We have been living the unimaginable while scientists work to find ways to control the spread of COVID-19.

Over time, scientists and researchers have been working around the clock to produce a vaccine to establish herd immunity against COVID-19. Three vaccines have been recommended and authorized in the United States: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and the Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen vaccine. Doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers have been distributing these vaccines throughout the country. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 million people have been vaccinated with one of the three vaccines available.

Entrance to COVID-19 vaccination site located on Kress Event Center, Green Bay, WI. Photo courtesy of Meghan Finger.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use the messenger RNA platform. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is made a little differently. Dr. Brian Merkel, a professor in Biology at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, explains how the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine goes into effect. “The J and J vaccine uses a different platform. It essentially takes a known virus – the edema virus, and it’s genetically engineered to show the immune system the same product that the messenger RNA vaccine shows. They’re called spike proteins,” explains Merkel.  “When the immune system creates antibodies to those spike proteins, the virus cannot land and affect,” says Merkel.

On April 13, 2021, a hold was put upon the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine after reports of blood-clot conditions with six recipients, out of close to seven million, all of which were women. This was done out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety of the United States population. Merkel explains that the pause of the distribution is strictly monitored for those who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccination. “Like with all vaccines, design safety is built into the vaccine so if need be, we can pause to ensure safety,” states Dr. Merkel.

Prevea Health and UWGB have partnered to host a vaccination site for the community. Photo of courtesy Meghan Finger.

If we all want to get back to the life that we remember and that requires a team, everyone has the best interest in becoming immunized because it’s going to take away the opportunity for this virus to be going anywhere” -Dr. Brian Merkel, a professor in Biology at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay

The CDC and FDA aim to eventually lift the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine once it is safe to utilize once again.

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