With reports of 15 cases of blood clots being detected in patients who have taken the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, and the vaccine being put “on hold” in several countries around the world, experts are saying the average patient has nothing to fear.
A recent New York Times “Coronavirus Briefing” newsletter reported that these cases involved women between 18 and 48 who took the vaccine and developed cerebral venous thrombosis (blood clots). One died, while another ended up in critical condition. The health problems developed two weeks after they took it.
The publication noted that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had put the administration of this vaccine on hold “out of an abundance of caution” so they can spend some time analysing the matter. Johnson and Johnson has also halted the rollout of the product in the European Union, stating that “the safety and wellbeing of the people who use our products is our number one priority, and we have been reviewing the cases of blood clots detected in the US with the European health authorities”. The European Medicines Agency said it was treating the US reports as a “safety signal requiring further assessment”.
In South Africa, where the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is the only product they have been using, Minister of Health, Zwelini Mkhize, said the pause was “precautionary”, adding that “Science must be respected at all times, although this may lead to a disruption in our plans.”
Here in Barbados, where it was recently announced that we may be receiving doses of this vaccine later this year, which unlike the current Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine we are using only requires one dose, President of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, Dr Lynda Williams, said there was no need for Barbadians to be alarmed as the chances of developing any complications were very slim. “There are six suspected cases of venal cerebral thrombosis out of the seven million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine administered so far in the US. The benefits of preventing COVID spread in the population far outweighs the risk to an individual; that is, there is a less than a one in a million chance of harm.”
Meanwhile, journalist Carl Zimmer, who has been covering this development for the New York Times, stated that “Right now the whole world is paying very close attention to these vaccines, so the idea of a pause might seem alarming and unprecedented. However, pauses happen all the time, both in trials and rollouts of medical products.”
Update – As of last Friday, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has given the Johnson and Johnson vaccine the OK to be used in the US.
This article appears in the April 26 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.