Now that public health officials have recommended a pause in the use of Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, many who have already received one of the shots are wondering what they should do.
As of Monday, more than 6.8 million people in the U.S. had already received a dose of the J&J vaccine, which is one-dose. Officials say these people shouldn't panic.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the recommendation Tuesday out of an abundance of caution as the agencies review data involving six reported cases of a “rare and severe” type of blood clot in people who received the J&J vaccine in the U.S.
In these six cases, a type of blood called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). Officials say all six cases involved women between the ages of 18 and 48, and their symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination.
Of the six women, the clotting led to one death and one patient remains in critical condition, according to Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
For those who have already received a J&J vaccine, officials say you should contact your heath care provider if you develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination.
Anne Schuchat, M.D., principal deputy director at the CDC, told reporters Tuesday that people who got the J&J vaccine over a month ago likely aren’t at risk for blood clotting.
During her remarks, Schuchat noted that the type of pain experienced would be “different” than the flu-like symptoms typically experienced after COVID-19 vaccines, though she didn’t expand on how the pain would be different.
Health care providers are also being asked to report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System here.
Officials say treatment of this type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.
As for what’s next for the J&J vaccine, the CDC says it will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these blood clot cases and assess their potential significance. The FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases.
“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” wrote the FDA and CDC in a joint statement.
Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, said the pause in J&J vaccinations won’t have a significant impact on the administration’s vaccination plan. He said President Joe Biden has secured enough Pfizer and Moderna doses for 300 million Americans, and there’s “more than enough supply” to continue the current pace of 3 million shots per day in the U.S.
The FDA and CDC discussed pausing the J&J vaccine in the video below: