Johnson & Johnson vaccine raises rare blood clot concerns

Isabella Kneeshaw, Staff Writer

Seven women reportedly experienced blood clots just weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, and two have died due to the side effect, including an Oregon woman during the last week of April. 

The single-dose vaccine was put under review, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that distribution be paused. There was an investigation to further decide the best way to proceed, and as of Friday, Apr. 23, the vaccine’s pause was lifted but now includes an additional safety warning.

The ages of the women affected range from 18 to approximately 50 years old. In addition to the woman in Oregon, the other death was a woman in Virginia. 

“This is still extremely rare. So even the case count that we’re aware of so far is only about seven cases in a total of 7.5 million vaccinated across the country,” Dr. Shimi Sharief with the Oregon Health Authority stated. 

Dr. Shareif brings up something many have taken into account: the chances of experiencing blood clotting due to the J&J vaccine are very slim, experts calculate that the likelihood of getting struck by lightning is comparable to the chances of getting these rare blood clots. By contrast, the risk of contracting COVID-19 without the vaccine is far higher.

Some even mentioned that other common medications, such as birth control pills, have a greater risk of blood clotting side effects. While the possible blood clots from birth control pills are not the same as those reported from the J&J vaccine, it could provide perspective into the risk that comes with taking any type of medication. 

“We have concluded that the known potential benefits of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older,” Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Janet Woodstock concluded in a recent statement

The Advisory Committee on Immunization found lifting the pause would prevent far more deaths and hospitalizations than it would cause. The accessibility and efficiency of the J&J vaccine is also very valuable, as it only requires one shot and isn’t constrained to high maintenance freezing storage, making it preferable to those unable to store the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at their required temperatures, and more accessible to many people. 

The J&J vaccine was estimated to be available again as soon as Saturday, Apr. 24, now with a safety warning regarding blood clotting risks. However, recent surveys have found that much of the public is still concerned, despite the CDC’s continued support of the vaccine. 

“Fewer than 1 in 4 Americans not yet immunized against the coronavirus say they would be willing to get the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that finds broad mistrust of the shot’s safety after federal health officials paused its use,” the Washington Post reported