White House is taking Johnson & Johnson vaccine news “extremely seriously,” Biden adviser says

White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein offered some of the Biden administration’s first on-camera reaction to news that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be paused following concerns regarding severe blood clot cases, saying the administration is taking it “extremely seriously” and largely declining to forecast what it means for reopening the economy.

“I’ve already heard that the White House medical team is poring over these data, looking into it, taking this extremely seriously. But it would be unwise for me to lean any further into that until we hear from them,” he said during an appearance on CNBC Tuesday morning.

As for the economic impact of the pause, with markets down on the news, he declined to forecast those implications, but acknowledged, “There is a clear connection — in fact we’ve said this from the beginning, Andrew, and so has Chair Powell — between controlling the virus, distributing the vaccine, and a robust and lasting economic recovery.”

Later adding that “recovery is very much a function of people feeling and being willing to reengage with commerce,” Bernstein otherwise declined to directly say how this could change reopening predictions.

“What I can’t answer now is your question which is what is the impact about what we’re hearing about on this timeline trajectory. Because I just don’t have that information and it wouldn’t be at all useful for me to speculate,” he said.

But asked whether it changes the timing on infrastructure, he said it would not.

“It is just as important as it was a few hours ago that we make the requisite investments in broadband, in grid, in water, in modernizing our schools, our hospitals, and our ports and our airports and our rail,” he said, adding that infrastructure “will continue to be a top priority for our economic team and our president.”

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