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The delayed start to deliveries of the J&J vaccine is yet another blow to the rollout in continental Europe and on its own could delay things by at least one month compared to a situation in which the recent pace of vaccinations is sustained. Strategists at Capital Economics answer five key questions about the latest obstacle.

Yet another setback to Europe’s vaccination campaign

“What’s the issue with the J&J jab? There have been reports of ‘rare and severe’ blood clots in the US amongst the people who have received the J&J vaccine, all in women between the ages of 18 and 48.”

“What does it mean? US authorities have recommended suspending usage of the J&J vaccine for now, and the company has delayed deliveries in Europe, which were scheduled to start today. Note that the vaccine was authorised by the European regulator in March. The EMA has said that there is not a clear causal link between the vaccine and the incidents in the US, but it is currently reviewing the US data.”

“How big a deal is this for Europe’s vaccine rollout? It is incredibly unhelpful, to say the least. Just as the pace of vaccinations in Europe was gathering pace, this is the last thing that the rollout needed.

“How about vaccine hesitancy? The issue seems likely to hit confidence in the J&J jab itself. Admittedly, polls indicate that this has not affected confidence in the mRNA-based jabs as much, and it is possible that there is little blowback this time too given that the rare blood clot side-effect seems to be associated with the ‘viral vector’ vaccines. However, even if this proves the case, it would only increase the reliance on the Pfizer jab in the EU and leave the rollout exposed to any potential issues with that jab which may yet arise.”

“What does this mean for the easing of restrictions? It is hard to say with any degree of certainty, but it is likely to make it difficult to sustain the recent pace of vaccinations. While it is not our baseline assumption, if neither the J&J nor AstraZeneca jabs end up being used, this could delay the vaccination programme by at least two months. We are sticking to our assumption that the euro-zone countries will vaccinate 50% of adults by mid-July, which should allow for a substantial easing of restrictions in Q3. However, any upside risks to this are shrinking fast.”

 

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