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HomeFact CheckViralIs Johnson & Johnson's Covid Vaccine Really Unsafe?

Is Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine Really Unsafe?

Will Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine cause a rare nerve syndrome in people as reported by several Nepali media outlets?

On July 12, Nepal got over 1.5 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines from the United States, which sent the jabs to Nepal under the global COVAX facility, a United Nations-led vaccine initiative, becoming the largest single-country donor of Covid aid to Nepal.

US Ambassador to Nepal, Randy Berry was quick to announce the arrival soon after the flight carrying the vaccines landed in Kathmandu:

Coincidentally, on the same day, the US drug authority, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which is responsible for approving vaccines, warned of possible side effect of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, announcing that it could cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare neurological condition in which affects the nervous system.

The FDA press release.

The timing of the announcement, so close to the arrival of the same vaccine in Nepal, got concerned citizens and Nepal media taking to social media to discuss the US drug regulators warning.

News 24 Nepal television’s report on the FDA was widely shared by Nepali social media users on multiple platforms including TikTok.

J&J vaccine misinformation on Tiktok.

In a tweet on 13 July, TV show host Bhusan Dahal attached a Reuters news report and raised questions on the safety of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine.

But in response to Dahal’s tweet, public policy professional Arup Rajouria attached a New York Times news story and tweeted, “It’s to a very low percentage of recipients that has triggered an autoimmune disease with the benefits outweighing the risks …”

Fact Check / Verification

During the course of our fact check, we reviewed a variety of resources, including statements pertaining to Johnson & Johnson vaccine by FDA, World Health Organization (WHO), Johnson & Johnson’s statements and trustworthy media outlets such as Reuters, the New York Times and the BBC.

Like FDA, the European medicines regulator, too, on 22 July, has taken note of the risks associated with J&J’s Covid vaccine. On 22 July it added Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a possible side effect after reviewing 108 cases reported worldwide.

Reuters news on European medicines regulator’s decision.

The single-dose vaccine, developed by Johnson & Johnson to prevent Covid-19 in people of age 18 and above, received emergency use authorisation from FDA on 28 Feb.

Is Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Safe?

On 12 March, 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed it for emergency use, noting that it has been “authorised for use in Europe, the US and other countries, with the widest experience to date in the United States, where more than 8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered as of 7 May.”

Later, on 11 May, 2021, WHO said that a sub-committee had met to review data on “blood clots and low platelets” after receiving the J&J vaccine. After the meeting WHO said, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s adverse effects “appeared similar to those observed following another adenoviral vectored vaccine, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine”.

It concluded that “the benefits of the J&J Covid-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.” 

Single Dose Vaccine

On 1 July, Johnson & Johnson stated in a press release that it’s Covid vaccine was found 85 percent effective against Covid-related illnesses. Even WHO states that Johnson & Johnson’s “Janssen covid vaccine was found to have an efficacy of 85.4% against severe disease and 93.1% against hospitalisation.”

Even “a single dose of Janssen was found in clinical trials to have an efficacy of 66.9% against symptomatic moderate and severe Covid infection.”

Experience elsewhere

In the US, nearly 12.5 million people have already got Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the vaccine’s adverse effects have been very low. In its Covid-19 update on 13 July, the FDA said that out of approximately 12.5 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses administered, there were “only 100 preliminary reports of adverse effects”.

In the UK, too, Johnson & Johnson vaccine was endorsed by the country’s medicines regulator in late May after it met necessary safety standards. After which, UK ordered 20 million doses, which are expected arrive later in the year.

BBC News related to J&J vaccine for the UK.

In India, too, a small quantity of J&J vaccine is being brought.

In Nepal, Covid vaccines have not caused any serious side effects among the nearly 2.7 million that have already been vaccinated with either AstraZeneca (Covishield) or VeroCell vaccines, according to Dr Krishna Prasad Poudel, spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population.

He told Newschecker: “All vaccines and drugs do have some side effects or untoward effects, but J&J vaccine’s side effects are much less compared to advantages and same with all vaccines in use.”

The government is planning to administer US-gifted Johnson & Johnson vaccines to refugees, people with disabilities, cleaning staff and health workers.   

Meanwhile, a new research in New York suggested that the J&J vaccine may not be very effective against Delta variant. And yet US officials haven’t recommended a second dose.

Meanwhile, a new research in New York suggested that the J&J vaccine may not be very effective against Delta variant. And yet US officials haven’t recommended a second dose.


Local media reports that Johnson & Johnson vaccine can cause rare neurological conditions and hence it should not be taken to prevent COVID-19 are misleading.

Result: Misleading.

Our sources:

New York Times:


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