Public Health addresses COVID-19 vaccine queries

A health care worker gets a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital vaccination center on Friday, 011520, 011520. Dan Watson/The Signal

Los Angeles County health officials discussed the county’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts with residents Tuesday, sharing updated safety information on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

After its initial pause, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week they had reviewed data and recommended lifting the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s use.

“The FDA and CDC concluded that the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 and that the potential benefits outweigh its known potential risks,” said Dr. Sharon Balter, director of Public Health’s acute communicable disease control.

The pause first began when cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS — which is when clots form in the large blood vessels around in the brain — were identified.

Of the 15 total cases identified of nearly 8 million vaccines administered, all were women, 13 of whom were between the ages of 18-49, while 14 of whom were white and one of whom was Black.

While three women died as a result, TTS, if identified early, is often treatable, Public Health officials said.

For every 1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine given, the risk for women ages 18-49 is 13 cases of TTS, while approximately 12 deaths, 127 intensive care unit admissions and 657 hospitalizations are prevented, and that risk decreases for women older than 50, according to Public Health data.

However, Public Health officials still advise those who receive the vaccine to continue to look out for early signs or symptoms of TTS one to three weeks after vaccination, which include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, severe or persistent headaches, blurred vision, and easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of injection.

Dr. Seira Kurian, Public Health’s medical affairs director, also provided tips for residents going to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines, including making sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, eat and continue taking regular medications, as well as being alert to any other potential side effects.

“The reality is the majority of side effects from getting vaccinated are minimal compared to what can happen if you actually get infected with the COVID-19 virus,” Kurian said. “Everyone reacts differently. Some had absolutely no symptoms whatsoever, while others have one or two minor symptoms that last a short time.”

These side effects include soreness or redness around the injection site, some muscle soreness, fatigue or mild fever within the first few days.

“See a doctor if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain,” Kurian added.

Those who are fully vaccinated should continue taking public health precautions, such as wearing masks when indoors, around others or in crowded spaces, as well as staying 6 feet apart, avoiding crowds and washing hands often.

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