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Despite Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause, risk is extremely low for those who got the shot

“If you have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I think you should continue to feel comforted that you are protected from COVID-19,” said M Health Fairview Chief Quality Officer Abraham Jacob, MD, MHA.
  • April 15, 2021
  • By Staff Writer

M Health Fairview and other health systems across the country paused distribution of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine yesterday after health officials discovered six women have developed a rare blood-clotting disorder following vaccination.

Despite the new findings, the risk to people who have received the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine remains extremely low, said M Health Fairview Chief Quality Officer Abraham Jacob, MD, MHA.

“A COVID-19 infection comes with a 20 in 100 chance of getting a blood clot, and right now we have six reported cases of blood clotting among nearly 7 million doses given out,” Jacob said. “If you have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, I think you should feel comforted that you are protected from COVID-19. We need to do more analysis to ensure that there is not undue risk compared to getting COVID.”

M Health Fairview’s decision to pause Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccination follows nationwide guidance from the CDC and FDA, which are investigating whether there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots. The CDC met this week to review new evidence about the vaccine. Until that process is finished, the agencies have recommended pausing Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccinations “out of an abundance of caution.”

All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The cases involved a type of blood clot called a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST).

Warning signs for potential blood clotting include an unusual headache, swelling in the legs, abdominal pain, or difficulty breathing, Jacob said. If you experience any of those symptoms in the 3-4 weeks following vaccination, Jacob recommends contacting your primary care provider, calling 911, or visiting an emergency department.

M Health Fairview has enough doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and this announcement will not significantly affect our vaccination efforts. If you have scheduled a COVID-19 vaccination appointment at a site administering the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, our care teams will call you to offer you a rescheduled appointment time for a vaccine from another manufacturer.

“We were expecting a smaller supply of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine anyway, due to manufacturing and supply chain issues that they’ve experienced,” Jacob said. “The Janssen vaccine only accounts for approximately 5 percent of the total vaccines given so far in Minnesota.

“Vaccination is still the fastest and most effective way to really end this pandemic, and we’re seeing that with a decline in the COVID-19 death rate,” Jacob said. “The vaccines are working, and so now it is just a race against the variants. The vast majority of our current COVID hospital admissions are unvaccinated patients, and those that are fully vaccinated have milder symptoms or are asymptomatic.  We’re just trying to get as many shots into people’s arms as safely and as fast as we can.”

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