Vials of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in San Rafael, California, on March 25.
Vials of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in San Rafael, California, on March 25. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is only a pause – not a cancellation – and he doubts it will extend for weeks to months.

On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and US Food and Drug Administration recommended that the US pause use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine over six reported cases or “a rare and severe type of blood clot” reported in the US.

Speaking on CNN’s New Day program on Wednesday, Fauci said: “There’s a twofold reason: one for an abundance of caution of safety, take a quick look, get more details, but also a heads up to the physicians out there that if you see these kinds of cases, don’t treat them with heparin. There are other modalities of treatment that could be used.”

The pause, in his mind, should “underscore and confirm how seriously we take safety, even though it’s a very rare event.” 

Fauci told CNN that he had no reason to believe that there were many more cases, but that the pause is there to take a look to see if there are any other cases.

“If anyone’s got a doubt that they may not be taking safety very seriously, I think this is an affirmation that safety is a primary consideration when it comes to the FDA and the CDC,” he said. “That’s why it was done and that’s why it’s a pause.”

It isn’t a cancellation, it’s a pause,” Fauci stressed.

After speaking to the CDC and the FDA, Fauci said that he thinks it’s “very likely to be more days to weeks than weeks to months. I doubt very seriously if we’re talking about weeks to months.” 

On the larger issue of vaccine hesitancy, Fauci said that while the wait-and-see approach is “understandable,” there is enough data in favor of vaccines.

“Over 120 million — close to 130 million people have already received at least one dose of this. That’s a lot of people. How long do you want to wait and see? You have almost half the country who’s received at least one dose. I think we’ve had enough wait and see. Let’s do it,” he said.

And as more people get vaccinated, Fauci also said that deaths from the virus will continue to decline — even though cases may rise.

“The most vulnerable, to the extent of the relative proportion, are protected,” he said. “As we get more and more people — 3 million to 4 million people per day vaccinated — the vaccine component of this is going to get stronger and stronger, and then you’re going to see the cases come down.”

Listen to the interview with Dr. Fauci on CNN: