What To Think About Johnson & Johnson’s Rare Vaccine Side Effects

What To Think About Johnson & Johnson’s Rare Vaccine Side Effects

Many health experts argue that vaccination is the best protection against the COVID-19 virus. The more people who receive the vaccines, the closer the country gets to achieving herd immunity, which may put an end to the pandemic. There are those who fear or do not trust the vaccines and think COVID-19 is a hoax, while others take it very seriously. For many, fears about the vaccine were confirmed when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommended the pause on Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

Six women experienced blood clots after receiving the J&J vaccine. One woman died and another woman was hospitalized. Was the vaccine the primary cause of these events? Researchers are hard at work to determine the reason why this happened. Nonetheless, the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that health care professionals stop administering the vaccine. The reason for this is to allow time for researchers to determine the cause of the clots, which are unusual side effects.

Health experts agree that the clots are not dissimilar to the rare clots that some people experienced as a result of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Preliminary studies show that the J&J shot may trigger an immune response that causes clotting. More research is necessary to confirm this link, though. As of now, The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will hold a second emergency meeting to discuss the J&J vaccine on April 23, 2021. 

How Does The J&J Vaccine Work?

The J&J vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. Using a modified version of an inactive virus, it helps make spike proteins that trigger an immune response in the body. The vaccine contains a harmless virus, not the one that causes COVID-19. The immune response triggers the immune system to make antibodies to fight future infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. According to the University of Maryland Medical System, vector vaccines do not interact or affect your DNA. You don’t contract COVID-19 from this vaccine. 

What’s The Deal With The Blood Clots?

Two recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the clots in people who received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The findings indicated that the people may have developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). This development came in combination with low levels of blood platelets, called thrombotic thrombocytopenia. A small percentage of people who receive heparin, a type of blood thinner, can develop CVST. 

In the J&J cases, clots occurred in veins in the abdomen and brain, both of which are unusual locations for clots. Both J&J and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are adenovirus vaccines, also known as vector vaccines. Dr. Amesh Adalja at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security suggested that the adenovirus vectors may be linked to blood clot development. After injection, it’s possible for the vector to generate antibodies that interfere with platelet function. This can imitate heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, which is treatable and diagnosable. 

This is a very unusual circumstance because clotting occurs at unusual sites. It does support the fact that clinical reports found that thrombocytopenia occurred in people who were never exposed to heparin. Scientists classify the development of the condition as an autoimmune response. 

These Clots Are Rare

Health experts agree that routine blood clots will occur when hundreds of millions of people are getting vaccinated. According to reports, blood clots occur in one to two people per every 1,000 people per year. As for the CVST condition, roughly 5 out of one million people develop it annually. That classifies it as a rare condition. It’s even rarer for the clots to occur as a result of the vaccine. Seven million people received the J&J vaccine and only six developed clots. Even though this number is small, it is significant, especially if people are hesitant about the vaccination process and potential side effects. 

At the end of the day, most health officials consider the benefits of the vaccine to outweigh the the risk of clot development. At the same time, the recommended pause of the J&J vaccine will lead to more vaccine hesitancy. Not to mention, it will slow the rollout of vaccines. Each person must make their own decision in regards to the vaccine, no matter which one they choose.



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