Local experts: Blood clots after Johnson & Johnson vaccine rare, continue to wait for guidance

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Some COVID-19 vaccinations are now on pause in central Illinois.

On Tuesday, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended a freeze on Johnson & Johnson’s version of the shot. So far, more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have already been administered.

Leaders said rare and severe blood clots were reported in six women after getting the vaccine.

“The pause does not mean the product is being withdrawn from the market. It does not mean that the product is not effective,” said Dr. Douglas Kasper, an infectious disease section head at University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria.

Dr. Kasper said the temporary suspension is a check and balance on the system.

“If there are reports that require more examination, and in this case it’s examination becuase of the seriousness of the event, a pause is the procedural component that is enacted,” said Dr. Kasper.

The rare blood clots appeared in women ages 18 to 48.

“When you look at that incidence, it’s .0000008,” said Dr. James Nevin, a Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Carle BroMenn Medical Center and Carle Eureka Hospital.

Leaders said one woman died and another is in critical condition. But, Dr. Nevin said despite the severity of those cases, it’s too soon to sound the alarms.

“There’s going to be a lot of worried well out there that are going to be fearful, I think the incidence is extremely, extremely low. Golly, driving a car is probably more dangerous than getting a vaccine,” said Dr. Nevin.

Sandra Salverson, a Vice President of Pharmacy Services for OSF Healthcare, said people who recently got the shot should monitor their symptoms.

“[See] if there’s any leg pain [or] abdominal pain that they can’t explain,” said Salverson.

Despite the risks, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best way to end the pandemic, she said.

“While this is a very signficiant side effect, it should not deter people from considering, at least right now, getting either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines that are available,” said Salverson.

Dr. Kasper said the review is a short break, giving health leaders time to reassure patients and medical professionals.

“The steps that we are going through, by itself does not mean this vaccine is not safe, does not mean it is not effective, it does not mean it can’t be used again in the future,” said Dr. Kasper.

A CDC advisory committee meets Wednesday to review the cases and vaccine.

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