Coronavirus weekly need-to-know: Rare J&J blood clots, vaccine side effects, kids & more

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Katie Camero
·6 min read
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Each week, we offer you a round-up of our noteworthy coronavirus coverage.

More than 31.4 million people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Friday morning, April 16, according to Johns Hopkins University. That includes more than 565,000 people who have died nationwide.

Globally, there have been more than 139.2 million confirmed cases of the highly infectious virus, with nearly 3 million reported deaths.

More than 78.4 million Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of April 15 — about 24% of the total population, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker shows.

Here’s what happened between April 9 to April 15.

Federal agencies call for pause on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

Federal officials on Tuesday called for a pause on using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six women developed rare blood clots days after receiving the single-dose shots. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it’s joining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in urging a halt on administering the single-shot vaccines.

One of the women died, and another is currently in critical condition. The reported blood clots, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, were all among women ages 18 and 48. They developed the symptoms six to 13 days after they received the vaccine.

Federal agencies call for pause on Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine after 1 person dies

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will ‘likely’ need a third dose

As more contagious coronavirus variants continue to spread in the U.S., vaccine developers are racing to test and determine if their shots will eventually require an extra dose or booster shot to maintain protection against COVID-19.

Based on the latest data, it seems “likely” that people who received the Pfizer vaccine — the first to be authorized for emergency use in the U.S. — will need a third dose sometime after they get their two doses, according to company CEO Albert Bourla.

The reality for COVID-19 vaccines will likely mirror that of flu shots, which require annual vaccinations that are updated by scientists each year depending on which strain of the influenza virus is circulating.

Will Pfizer COVID vaccine need a third dose? Company CEO explains why that’s ‘likely’

What to do, know if you got the J&J COVID-19 shot

Federal health officials urged vaccination centers across the country to pause their use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six women developed blood clots within two weeks of vaccination.

The condition, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), is “extremely rare” after getting the Johnson & Johnson shot.

Here’s what you should do if you got the shot in the last two weeks.

Got the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine? Here’s what to do — and what you should know

95% efficacy for COVID-19 vaccines doesn’t mean there’s a 5% infection risk

As more Americans line up to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, there’s confusion over just how protective the shots are against the disease. Clinical trials showed the Pfizer and Moderna shots, for example, had efficacy rates of about 95% against symptomatic COVID-19 in lab settings.

So, that means 5% of people who get vaccinated could still get sick, right?

No — it also doesn’t mean vaccinated people have a 5% chance of getting COVID-19 or that 95% of people are protected from the disease. Data suggests risk of infection after vaccination is actually much lower.

Here’s the breakdown.

95% efficacy for COVID vaccines doesn’t mean there’s a 5% infection risk. Here’s why

What to know about rare blood clotting connected to J&J COVID-19 vaccine

The condition, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), is “extremely rare” after getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. It happens when a blood clot forms in the brain, preventing blood from draining out of it and causing blood cells to break and leak into brain tissues. Medically, this is known as a cerebral hemorrhage.

CVST typically occurs in two to 14 people per 1 million. However, the six cases reported in the U.S. after Johnson & Johnson vaccination were coupled with low blood platelet counts, which together “make a pattern” that’s even more rare.

Continue reading to learn more about the condition.

What to know about rare blood clotting connected to Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine

If you’ve had COVID-19, your first vaccine dose may cause worse side effects

Early studies and countless personal stories show previous infection with the coronavirus may open the floodgates for more intense reactions to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as opposed to the second, which the majority say causes stronger side effects.

Although it seems like an unfair price to pay after already having dealt with an infection, intense reactions after one shot are a minor inconvenience that research shows offers more protective antibodies compared to those with no COVID-19 history.

And they shouldn’t last more than three days. COVID-19, on the other hand, can last weeks and even months for some. Here’s why.

If you’ve had COVID, your first vaccine dose may cause worse side effects. Here’s why

Adults vaccinated for COVID-19 can gather safely, but can kids join in?

Federal COVID-19 guidance released in March said it’s safe for fully vaccinated adults from different households to meet indoors without masks. It was the nation’s first step back to normal social gatherings since the coronavirus pandemic started.

But can unvaccinated kids join? Experts agree it comes down to considering the risks. Read on to learn more.

Adults vaccinated for COVID can gather safely, but can kids join in? What experts say

Antibody cocktail ‘rapidly’ prevents and treats COVID-19

New results from a multi-stage clinical trial show that a cocktail of special antibodies can reduce risks of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 81% if someone is not already infected with the virus. And for those who still get infected, the drug can help clear the virus from their bodies faster and shorten the duration of their symptoms.

A separate trial found that the cocktail, called REGEN-COV, is also able to reduce people’s chances of developing coronavirus symptoms if dealing with an asymptomatic infection by 76% after three days, the American biotechnology company Regeneron announced Monday.

Antibody cocktail ‘rapidly’ prevents and treats COVID, study finds. Here’s how

Funeral scammers target Americans whose loved ones died of COVID-19

A new scheme is targeting Americans who need help paying funeral expenses for loved ones who died of COVID-19, officials warn. In the scheme, a scammer contacts people who lost a loved one to the coronavirus and offers to help them get assistance.

But a real-life government program that covers funeral expenses won’t ever reach out to anyone who hasn’t signed up to get help, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Here’s what to know.

‘A new low.’ Funeral scammers are targeting Americans whose loved ones died of COVID

Dust may help predict COVID-19 outbreaks

Early in the pandemic, scientists learned they can study wastewater samples to predict COVID-19 community outbreaks by searching for viral particles in poop. Now, researchers at The Ohio State University say they’ve found an easier, cheaper — and less smelly — alternative: dust.

After analyzing surface samples from doorknobs, desks and floors, as well as vacuum bags full of grime from rooms at the school where students with COVID-19 were isolated, the team found the coronavirus’s genetic material in 97% of the vacuum samples and 55% of the surface swabs.

Dust may hold clues for scientists hunting better tools to predict COVID outbreaks

In other coronavirus coverage...