Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine and Blood Clots: Here’s What You Need to Know

SELF – Men’s and Women Health & Fitness

Update (April 23, 2021):

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel voted today to resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. 

The vaccine rollout has been on hold for more than a week while experts at the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed data suggesting the shots may cause rare blood clots and low platelet counts. This combination of issues is now referred to as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). 

Out of nearly 8 million doses of the vaccine that have been administered in the U.S. so far, the experts identified 15 confirmed cases of TTS. All of the cases occurred in women and 13 of them occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 49. But there are other cases (including some in men) that are under review, the experts said. There have not been any reports of people developing TTS after getting the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.

After hours of careful deliberation, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decided that the best course of action would be to begin using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine again in adults aged 18 and older. The committee voted to end the pause and resume the use of the vaccine with a warning added to the emergency use authorization that the vaccine may cause rare blood clots in women under 50, STAT reports. But the committee decided not to specifically restrict the use of the vaccine to specific groups, leaving the public and their health care providers to decide what’s best for them. 

To learn more about the first cases of TTS that experts identified and why the CDC and FDA recommended the pause, continue to our original report below.

Original report (April 13, 2021):

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are recommending that the U.S. pauses Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccinations due to concerns that the vaccine may increase the risk for a rare type of blood clot. It’s not clear yet if the vaccines are really causing the issues, but public health officials called for the temporary pause “out of an abundance of caution” while these two agencies investigate the possible link.

The recommendation comes as the CDC and FDA are reviewing six cases of rare blood clots in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) and low platelet counts, including one death, among women who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to a CDC announcement. All the cases occurred in women who were between the ages of 18 and 48, and they all developed symptoms of these conditions between 6 and 13 days after getting the shot. As a reminder, there have been about 6.8 million doses of the vaccine given in the U.S. so far, so we are talking about just six cases out of nearly seven million doses.

Now, a CDC advisory panel will meet this week to review the cases, as will the FDA. “Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” the CDC says. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.” 

More common types of blood clots are treated with blood thinner medications like heparin, but people experiencing these blood clots may need a different type of treatment (such as anti-seizure medications and procedures to reduce pressure in the brain, Johns Hopkins Medicine explains). So the pause is intended to give the medical community time to adjust as well as prepare for a possible need to be on the lookout for these clots and to administer those alternative treatments if needed.

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