The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are leaning toward resuming use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with a warning about blood clots, sources told CBS News. A decision is expected Friday, more than a week after the vaccine's distribution was paused following reports of rare but dangerous blood clots in eight people under the age of 50.
"I think too many people may be scared off by taking the vaccine. They shouldn't be, but perception is everything when it comes to vaccines," said Dr. Peter Hotez, who works at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.
The decision comes as the fight against the coronavirus may have reached a crossroads. Long waits for shots are now giving way to empty vaccination sites as vaccine supply is expected to soon outpace demand. Some mass vaccinations sites are now allowing walk-ins and drive-ups for anyone — no appointment necessary — to get shots in as many arms as possible.
"We're about at the point where any American who wants to get a vaccine can get a vaccine, and that's what you need to get to that 80% threshold for when life can resume back to normal," Hotez said.
More than 135 million Americans — 40% of the population — have received at least one COVID-19 shot. But vaccinations are lagging in the deep South and parts of the Midwest. Nationwide, there was an 11% week-over-week drop.
Some areas are refusing vaccine shipments. More than 60 of the 105 counties in Kansas turned them down this week because they would go unused.
"If you look at the lowest vaccination rates in the country right now, they're overwhelmingly red states," Hotez said. "I believe a lot of that is due to vaccine hesitancy and refusal among, as all the polls say, conservative and Republican groups."
Experts like virologist Ben Neuman say it's important not to give the virus a chance.
"What we're fighting here is basically a scorched earth battle. We are trying to take away all the food, sustenance and comfort that this virus needs in order to grow," said Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University.
Neuman recently identified three new variants in Texas. One, he said, has the potential to be much more transmissible and resistant to antibodies.
Amid COVID-19 fatigue, the CDC says it will soon issue new guidelines on outdoor mask use. A new study has also found pregnant women who contract COVID-19 have higher rates of complications, including pre-term births. Afound that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe for pregnant women.