A panel of Los Angeles County health officials updated residents on the county’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts Wednesday and addressed questions relating to the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s use.
The pause follows reports that six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, an “unusual” type of blood clot, six to 13 days after receiving the vaccine, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
While these reactions are extremely rare, as nearly 7 million people have received this vaccine in the United States, the county has paused the vaccine’s use out of an abundance of caution as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration conduct a review, which is expected to take until next week.
“We urge everyone to wait for more information on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as the federal expert panel investigating this issue has not been confirmed that the six cases are associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, county Public Health officer. “Serious events can happen with any vaccine, but these are typically very rare.”
While there is nothing specific that residents who received the vaccine should do to prevent these symptoms, those who received the vaccine in the past three weeks should look for any symptoms of these unusual clots — including severe headaches, abdominal or leg pain, and shortness of breath — and should seek medical care if these symptoms develop, according to Davis.
“If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a month ago or more, it is extremely unlikely that you’re at risk of developing the blood clotting condition currently under investigation,” added Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county. “At this time, there’s no reason to believe persons with any type of health condition are at higher risk to develop this reaction.”
It should be noted these symptoms are different from the mild symptoms experienced one to two days after being vaccinated, such as soreness, redness and occasionally swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, body aches and sometimes fever and chills.
“These symptoms are well recognized and a common reaction to the vaccines and are not a cause for alarm,” Simon added.
Each vaccine has undergone rigorous testing during the development process, as well as by thousands of study participants.
“While the vaccines have been developed rapidly, appropriate to the emergency we are in, all steps have been taken to ensure their safety and effectiveness,” said Dr. Naman Shah, associate chief of Public Health’s health care outreach unit, adding that studies of other coronaviruses, which have been around for a much longer time, allowed scientists to accelerate the initial development of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The results from the trials have unequivocally shown that the vaccines are incredibly effective,” Shah added. “They are amazing tools in our fight against COVID-19.”
While each vaccine received emergency use authorizations from the FDA, once six months of full safety and efficacy data has been compiled, these vaccines’ manufacturers should be submitting this data to the FDA for full approval.