Issue that prompted call for Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause is rare

Issue that prompted call for Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause is rare

Federal officials on Tuesday recommended that Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines be paused for now while they investigate a rare side-effect.

The pause follows concerns over six cases of blood clots in patients who have received the vaccine out of the 6.8 million who have received it so far. A CDC and FDA statement said the move is being made “out of an abundance of caution.”

“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,” the statement reads.

Large trials have shown that the three U.S.-authorized vaccines in heavy circulation are safe and effective, with common minor side-effects like arm soreness and fever that indicate the vaccine is working.

“Cases like the ones that caused this pause are exceptionally rare, and that’s why it’s so important people take the time to understand the full context,” Advocate Aurora Health Executive Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Prevention Dr. Robert Citronberg said. “Federal regulators are smart to take a pause and figure out what happened, but we still know that vaccines, while not completely without risk, are safe, and they are our way out of the pandemic. This kind of intense scrutiny is part of the safety process. It shows the system works. The benefits of the vaccines continue to far outweigh the risks.” 

Two other types of vaccines – those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – make up 96% of the doses administered in the United States so far.    

People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the past three weeks should not be alarmed, but in the rare event they develop any unusual symptoms including headache, abdominal pain, leg swelling or shortness of breath, they should contact their health care provider.

“Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is far safer than taking your chances with getting COVID-19,” Dr. Citronberg says. “I understand that cases like this can cause fear. It’s a reasonable way for people to react. This rare side effect has not been reported with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines despite more than 180 million doses given, so we strongly encourage patients to receive one of those vaccines as soon as they can.”

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About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.