Three months ago, the Food and Drug Administration placed a warning on the label for Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) COVID-19 vaccine related to potential rare blood clotting issues. Recently, the regulator added another. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on July 14, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss what investors should know about this latest FDA warning.
Keith Speights: Let's move on to another company that's in the news with COVID-19. The FDA has added a new warning to Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, and this is related to a very rare neurological disorder. Brian, what's the potential issue here, and does this impact in any way Johnson & Johnson's ability to market its vaccine?
Brian Orelli: The syndrome is called Guillain-Barre syndrome. It's characterized by numbness at the extremities. Most people recover, but it can lead to full-body paralysis. There has been about 100 cases in the 12 million people who have been vaccinated, and about half of those are coming in men 50 or older, so that seems to be the population that might be most susceptible.
But if I did the math correctly, I think it's 0.0008% chance of getting this syndrome, so I don't think it's really a major issue. I think the warning by the FDA is probably more for doctors to be able to identify, know that it's happening in a very small number of people, and then they can treat it accordingly.
I think that's probably the main take-home point here is that it's not a major issue, and I don't that it's going to affect sales of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in any sort of material way.
Speights: I would totally agree with you there, and it's not going to impact Johnson & Johnson from an investing standpoint probably at all. The vaccine is still only a really small percentage of this company's total sales. Johnson & Johnson is a healthcare giant, the biggest healthcare company in the world.
My concern on this is doesn't have anything to do with Johnson & Johnson actually. My only concern about this is it's just one other thing for the remaining segment of Americans who are reluctant to take a vaccine, it's just one more thing to make them a little worried.
Even though like you said, this is an extremely rare occurrence, it's one more thing for people who didn't want to take a vaccine in the first place to say, "Ah yeah, they found something else with one of these vaccines."
Orelli: But your risk of dying from COVID is a lot worse than your risk of getting this disease that may just clear up on its own. I think that that's the message that the government has to get through to people that are on the fence and are not wanting to get the vaccine. But I think it's a difficult proposition to make.
Speights: Exactly. Of course, if anyone has ever watched a TV commercial promoting a prescription drug of any kind, you are going to note the announcer is going to -- very hastily, I might add -- read off a long list of potential side effects.
I don't know that there's a drug or vaccine out there that doesn't have some type of potential side effect. But most of them are rare, and in this case, extremely rare. This isn't a big deal, in general. But again, my concern is there are folks out there who are looking for reasons not to take a vaccine.