Johnson & Johnson vaccine struggles to recover its reputation after CDC pause

Linley SandersSenior Data Journalist
May 18, 2021, 8:00 PM UTC

On April 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine because of concerns about blood clots. After a safety review, the pause was lifted on April 23. But data from Economist/YouGov polls shows that the impact of that initial halt remains.

An Economist/YouGov poll in field at the time of the announcement showed that immediately prior to the announcement, about half (52%) considered the shot safe, while one-quarter (26%) believed it was unsafe. After the pause was announced, just 37% of Americans considered the vaccine safe, and 39% now considered it unsafe.

The vaccine’s reputation has slightly increased in the weeks since the pause, but Americans have yet to restore the same level of confidence in the vaccine’s safety. This week, 45% consider the Johnson & Johnson shot to be safe, which represents an 8-point rise since the initial announcement (37%). But it’s still seven points below the level of confidence seen prior to the pause.

Who still has doubts about the Johnson & Johnson shot’s safety? 

When YouGov asked this question for the first time in February, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was at its highest level of perceived safety among Americans. As of mid-May, it has yet to regain its reputation among many groups, including Democrats (68% in February to 58% this week) and Independents (48% to 41%).  

Republicans saw a drop in their confidence (44% in February to 33% following the announcement), and this week 40% believe the vaccine is safe. 

Other groups who are generally in support of vaccines, including those who lost a family member (60% vs 48%) or close friend (63% vs 53%) during the pandemic, are similarly doubtful about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s safety today.  

Those who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine have also yet to regain their low-level of confidence. In February, 16% of Americans who said they would not get vaccinated thought the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was safe, compared to 9% this week. 

What the unvaccinated think about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine 

About two-thirds of fully vaccinated Americans (64%) believe the Johnson & Johnson shot is safe, compared to half (53%) of those who plan to get vaccinated. There are significant doubts among those who are uncertain about vaccination (just 13% think the J&J shot is safe) and those who refuse to get vaccinated (9%).

Those who refuse to get vaccinated have a low level of confidence in all three of the vaccines offered in the United States, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that is not approved. 

Among those who are not yet vaccinated who intend to get the shot, Moderna (63%) and Pfizer (58%) are the vaccines perceived as the safest.  

Related: When will the economy recover from COVID-19? Americans believe it will take at least two years 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll  

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between May 8 - 11, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.7% for the overall sample.

Image: Getty