The latest on the J&J vaccine; experts say side effects in other 2 vaccines to be expected
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — More information is coming out about the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a CDC advisory committee met Wednesday to discuss a rare reaction experienced in six patients.
The CDC and FDA called for a pause in use of the vaccine Tuesday after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 experienced a rare blood clotting disorder. One of the women has died, three others are in the hospital, with two of them in the ICU.
According to the CDC, about 7.1 million Americans had received the vaccine as of Wednesday, accounting for less than 4% of the more than 198 million doses administered across the country. Of the more than 7 million doses of the J&J vaccine administered, about 1.5 million went to women between the ages of 18-48.
The CDC’s advisory meetings typically end in a vote, but in Wednesday’s panel the members declined to vote after reviewing several options, one being to limit the use of the vaccine to older adults.
The panel said it would be about a week to 10 days until they had enough information to assess the vaccine’s risks and make a decision. They plan to meet again Friday, April 23.
President Biden’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he expects the vaccine to be reinstated, potentially with federal regulations based on age or gender, or with a blanket warning.
Lelan Stice, owner and pharmacist at Doctor’s Orders pharmacy in Pine Bluff, said they gave close to 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before it was put on pause.
“We haven’t seen any significant side effects from people, and nothing really different from what we’re seeing from the other vaccines,” Stice said.
Stice said drugs are approved by the FDA and administered to millions of people all the time, and that’s when rare things like this could happen.
“We have other medications that are on the market that can, you know, cause blood clots and things like this as well,” Stice said. “There’s a risk to taking them, and we continue to do those.”
There’s a risk of blood clots in birth control and other types of commonly used medications. According to stoptheclot.org, for the average woman taking birth control, 1 in 1000 women per year will develop clots. A much larger risk than what we’ve seen so far in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“It’s like .000008% of a chance that you’re going to have that reaction,” Stice said. “It’s an extremely rare event that has happened that may not be tied to the vaccine at all.”
Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health said it’s not uncommon, especially with second dose vaccinations, for people to experience a reaction to the vaccine. People have experienced soreness at the site, redness, swelling, swollen lymph nodes, headache and fever.
“We know that 80 to 90% of the people who get the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine will have some sort of a side effect,” Dillaha said. “Many people, when they have side effects, it will take a day to resolve, but some people it has taken longer two to three days.”
Dr. Dillaha said the side effects are the immune system recognizing the vaccine virus protein and learning to fight it as if it were the real thing.
“It means the vaccines working,” Dillaha said. “It’s a little bit more intense reaction, but it’s something that is important for people to expect.”
Dillaha said conversely, these reactions are less commonly found in the J&J vaccine.
Stice expects the vaccine to be reinstated once it’s investigated further. He said if he had not already been vaccinated and was offered the vaccine, he would feel “absolutely comfortable” taking it.