COVID vaccine concerns: Should women be on high alert after the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — The Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Drug Administration have put a temporary pause on the distribution and administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Health officials at Berkeley Medical Center want to explain to pregnant patients, as well as other women of reproductive age, and the general public, why the CDC has put the Johnson & Johnson vaccination program on hold and what happens if patients forgo the vaccine altogether.

Dr. Jessica Hott is the Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology of WVU Medicine East. She explained that the temporary halt on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes out of an abundance of caution.

“They [the CDC and FDA] have flagged that there is a potential complication called cerebral venous thrombosis in the brain,” Dr. Hott stated. “And when that happens, patients can experience things like severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, can develop shortness of breath, or other symptoms of blood clot.”

Dr. Hott also explained that the risk of developing a blood clot after receiving the vaccine relatively low. The data from the CDC shows as of April 12th, 2021, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered with only 6 cases raising concern. All 6 cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination.

Furthermore, the CDC explained health care providers would usually turn to an anticoagulant drug called heparin would be used to treat blood clots. However, in this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.

“So overall, the risk of blood clot in the general population is around 0.1 percent.” Dr. Hott explained. “And the risk from the study, or the data, they received from the J and J is 6 in 7 million, and so it’s relatively low. Your risk of developing blood clots while being on birth control is also around 0.1 percent.”

She went onto explain that patients who are diagnosed with severe cases of COVID that require an intensive care unit admission, face a 20 to 30 percent risk of developing venous thromboembolism or blood clot at any time. Furthermore, patients who develop mild to moderate symptoms who do not require admission to the ICU, face significantly less risk as the number falls to 5 to 8 percent.

“There’s a substantially higher risk for blood clot by getting COVIDthan actually from the J and J vaccine. You know, your risk is higher if you were to get sick and get severe illness than it would be from the theoretical risk from this vaccine,” Dr. Hott stated.

Dr. Hott is still recommending to her pregnant patients as well as women of reproductive age to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

“We do know that pregnant women are at much higher risk for complications if they get COVID during pregnancy, specifically higher risk for complications like blood clots, pneumonia, and severe illness that sometimes can require mechanical ventilation or more respiratory support,” Dr. Hott said.

Dr. Hott also explained that the vaccine could potentially only be a factor in the cases of blood clots. She stated there is no real data that would suggest that the blood clots are “absolutely from the vaccines.” She explained that the patients could have other comorbidities or other underlying medical problems that might not have been recognized prior to being vaccinated.

Hr. Hott and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology are still recommending to patients that they receive the other two available COVID-19 vaccines as data and findings are examined from the cases of increased blood clots from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

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