Johnson & Johnson vaccine halted in the US due to rare blood-clotting side effect


Image courtesy of Johnson and Johnson

By Ryan Bough

A federal advisory committee has ruled that the halt on the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will continue until more data is available on the severe blood clot side effects.

As of April 14, there have been six reports of the blood clot side effect from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All reported cases were in women aged 18 to 48. Out of the six, one woman has died while another remains in critical condition.

Acting Commissioner of the FDA, Janet Woodcock, addressed the reports of blood clots in an April 13 joint media call.

“I’d like to stress, these events appear to be extremely rare. However, COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government and we take all reports of adverse side effects following vaccination very seriously,” stated Woodcock.

The rare side effect occurred between six to 13 days after vaccination. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is unique from the other two emergency approved vaccinations in the United States as it only requires one dose, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses.

The side effect has not been reported in people who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. However, similar side effects were found in Europe from the AstraZeneca Vaccine.

Multiple European countries including; France, Germany, Italy and Norway put a short pause on the vaccine distribution due to public health concerns in mid-March.

According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), 86 patients had developed blood clots after the AstraZeneca shot and as of March 22, 18 of which were fatal.

Executive Director of the EMA, Emer Cooke, spoke at a press conference addressing the benefit to risk ratio of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Our safety committee, the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee of the European Medicines Agency, has confirmed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19 overall outweighs the risks of side effects,” stressed Cooke.

It is currently unclear if the CDC will move in a similar direction regarding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

During a Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting on April 13, Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin announced that the County would follow the CDC recommendation to immediately pause the distribution of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“Upon hearing about this in the early morning we immediately stopped any plans on giving the J&J vaccine in our county. It may be a stoppage, it may be a pause. We will be waiting to see what the FDA and the CDC says,” stated Levin.

Levin reported that 6.8 million Americans have received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and 13,685 doses were administered in Ventura County.

No blood clots have been reported in Ventura County.

In an April 14 Ventura County COVID-19 update, Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas addressed the early symptoms that were reported from the six individuals who developed blood clots.

“They start off with symptoms such as severe headaches, and abdominal or leg pain and shortness of breath. So if you have some of these symptoms and you had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, please consult your medical provider as soon as possible,” advised Vargas who added that he received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and feels fine. “I hope that everyone who got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is not experiencing these symptoms.”