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April 13, 2021

Use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused by Food and Drug Administration, Washington State Department of Health

Today, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that providers pause use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, following reports of six patients developing a rare blood clot disorder after receiving the injection. Washington State Department of Health, following the recommendation, has asked providers to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until further notice.

Due to limited availability of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 90 percent of Skagit’s vaccinations have used Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and the impact to future appointments is expected to be relatively limited.

 If you have an upcoming appointment for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, expect the provider to be reaching out to cancel or reschedule your appointment for another day/time. Check with your provider for exact details.

As reported in the New York Times, six patients in the United States have developed Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST) within two weeks of receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All six patients were premenopausal women between the ages of 18-48. A total of 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson shots have been administered in the U.S. so far, meaning that this blood clot disorder has an extremely low incidence rate of roughly 0.000085%. For comparison, there is a higher chance of developing blood clots from using hormonal birth control or during pregnancy.

“While not good news, this pause signals that the review systems for vaccines are working and working well,” said Dr. Howard Leibrand, Skagit Health Officer. “The FDA paused vaccination after a very small number of extreme reactions out of an abundance of caution to ensure that all the vaccines are safe and effective for all adults who receive them. It’s good work, and people should be encouraged to know that the FDA and Washington State Department of Health are looking out for their best interest.”

There are side effects associated with all COVID-19 vaccines, but the symptoms of CVST are different. The following are symptoms of CVST:

  • Severe headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Leg pain
  • Shortness of breath

Expected side effects of a COVID-19 vaccine include:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Painful, swollen lymph nodes in the arm and neck where the vaccine was injected.
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea
  • Fever or chills

For those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than a month ago, the risk of developing CVST is very low at this time. People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, call Public Health at 360-416-1500. To learn more about the COVID-19 response efforts, visit www.skagitcounty.net/coronavirus