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Apr. 19—While it would be wrong to call the pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine good news, the case reveals some things that are important to notice.
First, cases involving unusual blood clots that triggered the pause are very rare. Out of nearly 7 million doses of the J&J vaccine given, six cases have been reported — fewer than 1 in a million. To put that in perspective, your chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 15,300. A woman's chance — all the clotting cases have involved women — of getting blood clots while on hormonal birth control are around 1 in 100.
Secondly, despite the rarity of the reports, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection acted quickly to pause the vaccine distribution. All it took to trigger the response was a small number of reports of a rare and severe type of blood clot among half a dozen women between the ages of 18 and 48 when the symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination. The response shows both how carefully the administration of COVID-19 vaccine is being tracked and how alert the CDC and FDA are to notice and respond to potential concerns. That is reassuring.
The CDC said in a statement: "We do not know enough yet to say if the vaccine is related to or caused this health issue. To be extra careful, CDC and FDA recommend that the vaccine not be given until we learn more."
The pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is likely to be lifted by Friday, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert. Fauci spoke on Sunday news programs "Meet the Press" and "This Week" and said he expected distribution to resume soon with some different guidelines and precautions, perhaps with regard to age and gender.
The J&J vaccine is the most recently approved of the three vaccines being used to fight the pandemic in the U.S., and it only constitutes about 5% of the vaccines administered in the country so far.
If you've been vaccinated, it is unlikely you received the J&J vaccine. Only two of 20 locations providing vaccinations in Joplin and Neosho had been offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: a Walgreens store at 880 Neosho Blvd. in Neosho and a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Airport Drive. And remember: Even if you received the J&J vaccine, reports indicate any risk is very low.
The other two approved, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, are mRNA vaccines. The J&J vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, as is the AstraZeneca vaccine not approved for use here but used in other countries. It too has raised blood clotting concerns that led to a pause and adjustments. Again, these are small numbers that brought quick responses and revisions.
Finally, the risk from any of the vaccines is much lower than the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, and getting vaccinated doesn't help just you. On that front, half of all adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot, the government announced Sunday. That is good news because the more of us who are vaccinated, the lower the risk to us all becomes.
That ultimately is the most important thing.