Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A Late Show writer looks at the tiny J&J vaccine risk and says, yeah, women will take those odds

Stephen Colbert, Eliana Kwartler
Stephen Colbert, Eliana Kwartler
Screenshot: The Late Show

“While we’re in the tunnel, we still have to keep our foot on the gas,” was Stephen Colbert’s message to his fellow lockdown-weary Americans on Wednesday. And if that particular “light at the the end of the tunnel” analogy wasn’t the most original, at least he didn’t pile on the sports metaphors like beleaguered (by COVID and white supremacist dipshits) Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who Colbert showed hurling out every sports metaphor she could muster in order to urge her once-more infection-surging populace to, as Colbert paraphrased, “Hail Mary the puck to the back nine, or else the shortstop might drive through the paint to jai alai the bocce ball through the wicket,” and then we’d all be screwed. Look, in deference to Colbert and Whitmer, it’s been a long, long year, you guys.

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And Colbert had yet another reason for sporting what doctors (of Classics) term “Sisyphus eyes,” as, this week, it was announced that one of the three vaccines competing to inoculate us back into some semblance of normal life has some very rare potential side effects that have seen the CDC press pause on the Johnson & Johnson plungers. Noting that America’s most trusted person, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is assuring everyone that this pause is coming out of an abundance of caution (since the potential blood-clotting issue has possibly affected about one in a million recipients), Colbert yet groused that, at this point, every little speed bump in the aforementioned COVID tunnel feels like hitting a particularly spiteful brick wall.

And he’s a dude. As Colbert noted, the only patients who’ve manifested these symptoms have been women, ages 18-49. And while that’s a coveted demographic in his business, Colbert brought out one of his staff writers, Eliana Kwartler, to explain that, to her peer group, one in a million sounds like vaccination heaven. You know, since, as Kwartler notes, women on the birth control pill face odds of one in a thousand that clotting will happen because of a necessary medical treatment that millions of women use every day. (Without ever missing a single day, or else.) And that’s in addition to the other side effects—like headaches, cramping, tremors, and the possibility of getting pregnant anyway—that women have to put up with. (Please note that the study of a male birth control treatment is hampered by the fact that men routinely drop out of clinical trials. Because of the same side effects that women have historically been gaslighted as being all in their pretty little heads.)

As Kwartler continued, women face so many potentially dire outcomes when it comes to their own medical choices that one-in-a-million during a worldwide pandemic seems like finally getting your hands on some beneficially loaded dice. And while Dr. Fauci’s assurance that this J&J hiatus is likely to be a matter of days or weeks (and not weeks, months, or forever), Kwartler told her boss to basically suck it up. You know, since he doesn’t have to take the pill, worry that falling asleep with a tampon in might mean losing a leg, or inject botulism in order that men might not suspect that he’s aging out of patriarchally delineated beauty standards. And don’t get her started on the potential hazards of vajazzling, which Kwartler urged the pleading-ignorant Colbert to Google—on a non-work computer. “The point is,” concluded Kwartler, “the benefit of getting the vaccine far outweighs the risks. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if people get scared into not getting the vaccine, we could backslide.” And, again, if that whole “light at the end of the tunnel” metaphor is overused, well, so are people’s dumbass excuses to put the entire country at risk by chickening out on getting vaccinated.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.