On Monday morning, I got vaccinated in Washington state. Following the Faucian wisdom that the best vaccine to get is the first one you can get, I hadn’t shopped around, so I was pleasantly surprised when the medical professional administering the shot told me, “Today we’re doing the Johnson & Johnson,” as though it were a restaurant’s special of the day. One less appointment to schedule? Fine by me.
The sun was shining when I arrived back home that afternoon, and I snapped a selfie under the camellia tree in my backyard to post on Twitter — a “vaxxie,” the kind I’d been liking on other people’s feeds since the Covid-19 vaccine program began ramping up around the country. My social media timelines had been full of real-life friends and online pals mugging beneath their masks and flashing their vaccine cards for weeks.
I posted it with the caption, “Johnson & Johnson. One and done.”
I woke up Tuesday morning without any discernible side effects — but to a phone screen crowded with notifications. The ones from the New York Times and Washington Post announced that the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were enacting a “pause” on the J&J vaccine after six women experienced a rare blood-clotting reaction, one of which proved fatal. The ones from Twitter indicated that what I’d thought was an unassuming vaccine selfie was being retweeted with snarky comments from total strangers like, “One and done all right,” and, “Oh honey, I’ve got bad news.”
Amid a push to make vaccines available to as many eligible adults as possible, the former was very bad news — not just for Johnson & Johnson, which was already dealing with consumer fallout from a contaminated batch, but for ongoing efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy.