Today, out of an abundance of caution, J&J vaccines were paused in the US. On a personal note, I received the J&J vaccine.=) Let me help you sift through these headlines and hopefully calm some fears you might have.
✅ 7 million doses of the J&J vaccines have been administered. Of those, 6 people developed a rare blood clot. Key things to keep in mind:
1. All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48.
2. All clots occurred between days 6 to 13.
3. This is comparable to what was observed with the clots seen after AstraZeneca vaccines in the UK. Those were 4 out of 1 million people, all women between the same ages, and occurred between days 6 to 28 after the vaccine. The J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines are both the same adenovirus type (instead of the mRNA vaccine types) – so, that’s why I’m comparing them.
4. These specific types of clots (CVST) are very, very rare and the pause is part of due diligence with vaccine trials and roll-out. (Without getting too technical, the combination of CVST plus low platelets are what is being investigated.) The background rate of these specific types of clots are 2 to 14 per million. Identifying these events and pausing after 6 people shows that the public health vaccine surveillance system in the US is working. Picking out these 6 events out of the 7 million doses that have already been administered should signal to us that our systems are working.
5. I do not want to downplay these events. But, they do need to be put into context of the overall risk.
– Blood clots associated with COVID-19 are MUCH higher (see the graphic). 6 out of a million with the vaccine versus 165,000 with COVID-19. The risk is much higher if you actually get COVID.
-The risk of clots with birth control pills or smoking are also much higher (see the graphic).
6. Tomorrow the CDC and FDA will jointly examine possible links in a meeting with the outside advisory committee.
I know many of you have questions about what you should do if you already received the J&J vaccine. Should you monitor for symptoms? Are the clots only within the first 2 weeks? Should you get another one if you’re between those ages and a woman? I do expect those recommendations to come tomorrow after the meeting. I’ll keep you updated.
Remember correlation does not equal causation. I hope this post helps squash some of your fears. Many of you are already at an anxious point in the pandemic and I bet these headlines do not help. Stay encouraged, friends. Remember the big picture and the system is working.
***Note: The graphic shows the risk for AstraZeneca. These are comparable to the J&J vaccines, but the graphic has not been updated. Also, there are different types of blood clots (which range from rare to common and from non-severe to severe) and the graphic shows all types clumped together. So, it’s not completely apples to apples, but it does help us compare risks.