After more than a year of Covid, everyone on Twitter is now an epidemiologist. Since news broke early Tuesday The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that states halt their Johnson and Johnson vaccine efforts because it was found that six women between the ages of 18 and 48 had infrequent blood clots afterwards After a vaccination (one died, another is in critical condition), social media has been flooded by people with no medical background who are nonetheless convinced that federal authorities have made a terrible public health mistake. Granted, six clotting episodes from more than six million doses dispensed looks like a literal risk of a million. And that made it easy for some budding experts to claim the regulators were wrong.
Data journalist Nate Silver penetrated the deep end of the pool, no doubt to muffle its big splash:
6 cases from 7 million people. What a disaster. This will kill people. And it will lead to more hesitation about the vaccine. These people do not understand the cost-benefit analysis. You keep making mistakes of an order of magnitude. https://t.co/DQdvqoujHR
– Nate Silver (@ NateSilver538) April 13, 2021
Silver had plenty of company, though not all of them responded so one-dimensionally. Ezra Klein from The New York Times At least he nodded to the very real dilemma that regulators were facing: if they misunderstood J & J’s decision, “confidence in all vaccines and in future vaccines could collapse.” that the decision to stop vaccination was the greater risk and suggested the agencies might have considered alternatives: “Since the blood clots were all in women, use J&J for men and Pfizer / Moderna for women. “It’s not a crazy idea. It could be the plan for the future.
However, all Twitter epidemiologists replace those of the scientists and policymakers responsible for these decisions with their own (comparatively uninformed) opinions. Hesitation about vaccinations is a very real obstacle to full social recovery from Covid. Perhaps, as a woman, I have more innate concern and curiosity about what clotting might mean, especially in younger women, who are mostly of childbearing age and primarily have a comparatively lower risk of Covid. The type of blood clots reported to date is rare, dangerous, and actually worsens when treated in the same way as more common blood clots are. It takes researchers time to sort through the medical evidence and publish the correct answer. ((These is an excellent thread from a doctor.)
We know nothing about the race, ethnicity or health of the women concerned. These data points could be important. Given the history of medical research that ignores male-female and racial differences – not to mention actively experimenting on black patients to their own detriment – it is important to get this right. Get the data right and get the news right too.