On Tuesday, April 13 the CDC and FDA recommended US distributors “pause” inoculations using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women developed blood clots. Within two weeks of being given the vaccine, these women developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets. This combination requires more specialized treatment than what is typically administered, and the typical medication prescribed for blood clots is actually dangerous for cerebral venous sinus thrombosis blood clot cases. All of the women who have been diagnosed with this condition are between the ages of 18 and 24; one has died and one is in critical condition.
“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks said. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously.”
Over 6.8 million people in the US have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 10 percent of fully vaccinated individuals have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and 3.7 percent of all vaccines given out in the US were Johnson & Johnson. The majority of vaccines distributed have been Moderna and Pfizer, neither of which have reported a presence of the blood clotting disorder that appears to be linked to Johnson & Johnson.
The vaccine push has been fueled by desires for herd immunity. But in order to reach that goal, according to Dr. Fauci in December 2020, “75 to 85 percent would have to get vaccinated.” With Johnson & Johnson vaccinations being paused, there is concern about reaching the goal of herd immunity.
Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, wrote in a statement, “This announcement will not have a significant impact on our vaccination plan: Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes up less than 5 percent of the recorded shots in arms in the United States to date.”
Zients is confident that the US will reach President Biden’s goal of 200 million shots administered by his 100th day in office. “This is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of 3 million shots per day,” Zeints said.
Patients who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be aware that their chances of having received a blood clot from contracting COVID-19 appear to be significantly higher than their chances of contracting a blood clot from being inoculated by the Johnson & Johnson shot. According to a November 2020 study by EClinical Medicine by The Lancet, 20 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 developed a blood clot, and the number increased to 31 percent if the patients were administered to the ICU.
If you have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and develop severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath after receiving the vaccine, the FDA recommends contacting your healthcare provider.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less temperamental temperature-wise than its COVID-19 vaccine counterparts, and its single-dose inoculation has been preferable with communities that may not be able to make a second appointment. Individuals experiencing homelessness have been a target audience for the shot, but no plan has yet been announced to monitor this community for possible blood clots caused by the vaccine.
No timeframe has been announced as to if or when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout will resume.
Cover Image from Diana Polekhina Via Unsplash
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Olivia McCormack is a senior at American University studying journalism. She's an avid fan of movies and TV and is currently the Managing Editor of The Rival American. Follow her on Twitter, @wonk_ur_world, and on Lettterboxd, @Ob_LIV_ious.