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April 14, 2021
What A Day
Johnson & Pausin

In This Episode

  • Federal health officials recommended a pause on giving out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, yesterday, after they reported that six women experienced rare blood clots. Nearly 7 million people have received the J&J vaccine so far, so the incidents are extremely rare, but all 50 states suspended the vaccine’s use or advised a pause.
  • Today, President Biden is expected to announce that he will withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by 9/11 of this year. This comes after 2,300 US service members and an estimated 157,000 civilians died during the past two decades.
  • And in headlines: the officer responsible for paralyzing Jacob Blake will not face discipline, the FDA says patients can get abortion pills via telemedicine, and an enormous rabbit has been stolen in England.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, April 14th. I’m Akilah Hughes


Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the podcast that contains the tone that incapacitates Boston Dynamics dogs.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. If you see those freaky robot dogs just walking around, play WAD, and trust us.


Gideon Resnick: It is actually a feature, and not a bug. On today’s show, President Biden has the date for when to pull American troops out of Afghanistan. Plus, we’ll have some headlines.


Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:


[clip of  Janet Woodcock] Out of an abundance of caution, we’re recommending a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to reports of six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot following vaccine administration.


Akilah Hughes: So that was acting FDA Commissioner, Janet Woodcock, announcing some news you’ve likely seen by this point. But Gideon, let’s walk through what all we learned about the J&J vaccine yesterday and what people need to know.


Gideon Resnick: Yes. So federal health officials recommended this pause they’re talking about there, while they investigate those six reports of blood clots—they were all in women ages 18 to 48. And to put that into perspective here, so almost seven million people have received the J&J vaccine in the U.S. so far. So these known incidents are exceedingly rare, like one in a million or less. You have higher chances, for instance, of getting clots while being hospitalized with COVID.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you also have a higher chance of getting clots if you take birth control. It’s like one in a thousand women will get blood clots that way. So, yeah, lots of ways to get blood clots, not the main one being this way.


Gideon Resnick: Right, right. However, the cases with the J&J vaccine were severe enough that federal health officials recommended this pause. One recipient reportedly died and another is in critical condition. And so yesterday, all 50 states either temporarily stopped administering the J&J vaccine or recommended a pause themselves.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. And so what do we know about these rare clots and what scientists will be looking for in the coming days?


Gideon Resnick: OK, so the condition is called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. It is really rare in general, about three or four cases per million Americans every year, according to the National Institutes of Health. And what happens is that clots form in veins that drain blood from the brain. And what researchers are trying to figure out during this pause are two things. So, 1) how to treat these rare side effects if they come up. For example, the advice at this time was to not use a common blood thinner called heparin. And 2) to figure out if there is a link between the clots and the J&J vaccine. Then if there is, whether there could be a change in who this vaccine is ultimately recommended for.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it makes sense. Well, recently we had talked about rare instances of clots in Europe that briefly put a pause on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine there. How does this relate to that, if it does?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it kind of does. An FDA officials said yesterday that the cases were, quote “very, very similar.” And so in Europe, regulators and scientists had come to the conclusion that those rare conditions were possibly due to an immune reaction from the vaccine. Both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines rely on the same delivery mechanisms as it were, which are different than Pfizer and Moderna. But that on its own wouldn’t appear to be the reason why there could be a link to these very rare clots.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so some people out there might have already gotten the J&J vaccine wink, wink, nudge, nudge. What did health officials have to say that they should know?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, very subtle. As one of the million people who has gotten it, and in the last couple of days, no less, let me tell you: I was curious, both to be able to tell people and for myself and other people I know who got it. So here is one part of what Dr. Fauci was saying during a White House briefing yesterday


[clip of Dr. Antony Fauci] I would tell them to just first of all, don’t get an anxiety reaction because remember, it’s less than one in a million. However, having said that, pay attention. Do you have symptoms: headache, do you have shortness of breath, chest discomfort—do you have anything that resembles a neurological syndrome?


Gideon Resnick: Listen, I hope you would consult a doctor anyway for something as severe as that—just going to put it out there. But basically, the gist of it is if you got the J&J vaccine in the past three weeks and are experiencing any of those extreme side effects, contact a doctor. And I want to add here, as someone who sometimes gets nervous about these kinds of things, officials were also saying that these would be different than what might be the generally harmless side effects a day or so after a shot: the achiness or fatigue. I saw another expert from Northwestern University impressing that on the headache front specifically, we’re talking about something very, very severe. And one more thing: we wanted to address a question out there since these known cases are all in women between 18 and 48. The FDA said that at this current time there was not evidence that women using birth control pills were more likely to be at risk here. Again, we are in the very early stages of this, though. And we can link to all of this in our show notes as a helpful guide.


Akilah Hughes: Yes, but the final point on this: how is the pause going to affect supply, and maybe even more importantly, the vaccine hesitancy we’ve all been talking about?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, the administration for now is saying that the pause is not going to have a significant impact on the supply.


Akilah Hughes: I just don’t know how that could be possible. Like, I know I learned math in Kentucky, but if you have a set number and you subtract a bunch of numbers, it seems like there would be fewer things available. But you know what? Well, just let it play out. Maybe I’m wrong.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I mean, hopefully they’re banking on the fact that it is a short pause, and it’s not actually being withdrawn from anywhere. But already on a local level, New York City, for one, was attempting to get people switched over to Pfizer or Moderna at various sites. And then these massive pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens have said they’re also trying to reschedule people so they can offer one of the shots by the other manufacturers. But some local officials were saying that this news could be a challenge because J&J had been used for people who are homebound, or unhoused, or even college students—and the hesitancy question might be the bit more daunting part of all of this, and it’s one that health officials were going to have to confront before this news even happened. Though, some public health officials were worried that this actually is not going to help on that front.


Akilah Hughes: Right.


Gideon Resnick: We will keep you up to speed on all of the updates here. But now Akilah let’s shift gears to another story that is massively important as well: President Biden’s plan in Afghanistan.


Akilah Hughes: All right. So The Washington Post got the exclusive, and today, Biden is expected to announce that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 9/11 of this year, the 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. And frankly, it is long overdue.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, most of my adult life. Most of my life. So how many troops in Afghanistan is this going to impact?


Akilah Hughes: So currently there’s an estimated 2,500 U.S. troops on the ground there, but there are also 7,000 foreign forces there who are mostly NATO. And last year, former President Trump had negotiated with terrorists, in this case the Taliban, to bring our troops home by May 1st. They vowed to attack the U.S. and NATO if we do not meet that deadline. And I kind of think this is why you don’t negotiate with terrorists, because their terms can be pretty outrageous. But the withdrawal is going to go in phases and there hasn’t been a response yet from the Taliban if this new fall date is OK with them. Again, the whole negotiating with terrorists thing is just hard to parse, but all right.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, have not been there myself, so I’m not going to offer tips. There’s no getting back the damage done in Afghanistan throughout the Middle East, but can you quickly run through a list of the human and fiscal costs of this so-far never-ending war on terror?


Akilah Hughes: Yes. So more than 2,300 U.S. service members have lost their life in combat in Afghanistan since we first declared war, and thousands more Afghan civilians have died. Rough estimates place that number, around 157,000 civilian casualties, and across all the nations that we’ve been punishing for 9/11—so that’s including Pakistan and Iraq—nearly 800,000 lives have been lost with really nothing at all to show for it. And on the less important, but still painfully important, fiscal side of things, a 2019 report from the Project on Government Oversight places the cost in the trillions—and not just like a small number of trillions, like more than five trillion dollars.


Gideon Resnick: Man.


Akilah Hughes: Which means that we’ve spent more money as a country killing people overseas than we can beg Congress to give us to rebuild the country after the once-in-a-century pandemic that we’re all still living through.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, it always tends to flow in one direction. But with that huge price tag in mind, it does make you wonder where the government wants to be spending that military budget instead.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, unfortunately, it is still the military. But what’s interesting, I guess, in the budget proposal is that this may signal the Biden administration seeing the Middle East as less of a threat than China and Russia, with their all-out assault on our elections and democracy. So obviously, Iran and the nuclear deal there—it’s still a big factor. Same with North Korea. But it’s at least a little refreshing, I guess, that this administration is taking their national security priorities into the 21st century and online. We will keep you posted on what Biden has to say today, but that’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about seltzer’s that are more alcoholic. White Claw announced a new product line called Surge yesterday—sounds pretty familiar—which features larger cans and an ABV of 8% instead of 5%. White Claw Surge will be available in cranberry and blood orange—I have no idea if those are popular choices—but White Claw also announced new flavors: strawberry, pineapple and blackberry. So Giddy, what is your reaction to White Claw Surge?


Gideon Resnick: Surge is an interesting name to go—


Akilah Hughes: For several reasons.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, [laughs] for to go with during a pandemic where that word is frequently invoked. But you know, I’m glad that we are, we are getting [?for look] go back. I think, I think that this is what we’ve all been yearning for—and, you know, God bless. If you want to have a Surge or two.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I’m not even a real White Claw fan—like, no offense, if you all want to sponsor the show, I’ll, I’ll try it again. [laughs] Like, objectively, I just don’t think that there should be alcohol. Like, these are two things that, you know, like I, if I’m drinking alcohol, it’s mask the flavor, not just put bubbles under the nasty flavor of whatever I’m drinking. Yeah I, I got to say, not—that seems a little messed up. Right?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. In what setting, if you’re having a White Claw are you having one, and would this mean that you would just have one instead of two, or potentially three or four? I don’t care.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean you know, I guess that that’s the thing. You could drink one and have, you know, regular kind of experience. If you drink two, that is the Four Loko experience, maybe a little more alcohol even. You know, I assume that people are going to be doing this at like a family reunion where they will likely become very belligerent and violent, and I think probably shouldn’t have been drinking White Claws then. Like, let’s just keep it peaceful. I don’t know, maybe on a beach? But that sun headache seems like it would be worse with more alcohol. I just feel like I’m not seeing an upside here. You know, maybe someone who drinks more than I can, you know, thinks that this is a good idea and they’re like: it’ll save me money, I won’t have to pound 80 White Claws to feel something. Yeah, I think that it’s, it seems like an interesting choice. Well, just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe, don’t drink so many White Claw Surges. You know, maybe just sip the first one. And we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: The officer responsible for paralyzing Jacob Blake will not face discipline for his actions. Wow. Last summer, Rustin Sheskey fired at Blake seven times while two of Blake’s children were sitting in the car. Kenosha, Wisconsin’s police chief said the officer’s use of force was consistent with the department’s policies. And Sheskey is now back on the job after being on administrative leave. In other news, the Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright at a traffic stop has resigned. Officer Kim Potter’s resignation was quickly followed by that of Police Chief Tim Gannon, who told reporters yesterday that the fatal shooting was an accident. Potter was previously suspended pending the results of an ongoing investigation. And Washington County’s district attorney said yesterday that his office will make a decision on whether or not to press criminal charges against Potter, by today.


Akilah Hughes: The Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that patients seeking abortion pills can now get them via telemedicine. Patients previously had to get the drug Mifepristone in person from health care providers in accordance with a Trump-era policy, but that restriction will be lifted for as long as the pandemic persists. The FDA’s decision comes as abortion opponents in multiple Republican-led states such as South Carolina, Arkansas and Texas, pushed legislation to limit access to pregnancy termination methods. It’s a victory for abortion rights advocates and leading medical groups, many of whom are pushing to make medication abortion available via telemedicine prescriptions and mail-order pharmacies, even after the pandemic is over,


Gideon Resnick: The Mr. Bean being of international containerships, the Ever Given continues to do its signature move of being stuck. Only now it’s because the government of Egypt won’t let it go anywhere. Egypt says the Ever Given’s owners around 900 million dollars for losses in revenue resulting from the Suez Canal blockage, as well as repair and rescue costs. Until Egypt gets that money, they’re keeping the ship and its crew of 25 Indian nationals in a lake at the canal’s midpoint—that is crazy pants. I know what you’re thinking: how fast can this boat go, and is there potential for water skiing during this period? Not sure, quite frankly, and probably not. One seafarers’ union in India is calling for the crew to be released, and for Egypt to settle the matter with the Taiwanese shipping company that owns the Ever Given. If this makes the company feel any better, I also once did a fender-bender that cost a billion dollars: I ran over Sir Richard Branson. Sorry.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, we’re sorry. Sorry Rich. The rabbit hat looks like a refrigerator in a rabbit costume, England’s Darius is missing. Darius is the Guinness record holder for “Longest Rabbit.” He is four feet long and weighs 50 pounds.


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Akilah Hughes: This is not me body shaming, it is me doing self-care. I will not be looking at Darius because I don’t want nightmares that last forever. Darius’s owner and local police in England think he was abducted, maybe for his value as a stud for large rabbit babies. Darius’s offspring have previously gone for 250 pounds—that’s their selling price, not their weight, but I can see why you’d be confused. The monsters who stole Darius should know he is now too old to breed, if that’s what motivated the crime and they didn’t just want a rodent that can scare away coyotes. Darius’s owner is offering 2,000 pounds for his return. And all joking aside, we love you, Darius. Your body is perfect and we’re all just jealous. Please hop home safe. Also, I just looked at a picture and I actually think it’s cute, so, you know: redacted.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we, we love our thick UK king. Get home safe.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. We love our big bunny. And those are the headlines.


Akilah Hughes: One last thing before we go: in the latest Takeline, host Jason Concepcion and Renee Montgomery discuss the viewership milestones reached by women’s college basketball.


Gideon Resnick: And they put Oscar-nominated director Travon Free in the hot seat for a round of the hilarious game: Takesurvivor.


Akilah Hughes: Listen and subscribe to Takeline on Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you’d like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, tell Darius we were joking, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just the rules about which boats are too big for waterskiing like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And be careful with Surge!


Akilah Hughes: All right. Don’t be like me in third grade, drinking the soda real fast and then getting a headache. All right, sip it.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, you—the clinical trials have not been completed on Surge, I’m just going to say. [laughter]


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.