Vigo, Knox County health officials discuss Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause

Wabash Valley COVID-19 updates

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Vigo County Health Commissioner Dr. Darren Brucken, MD, assured the community that vaccines are safe and effective following a CDC recommendation to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Brucken explained the pause is “is no more than a usual precaution being taken as the individual cases are studied in further detail,” after six cases of a rare blood clotting issue was found in younger women who received the vaccine.

The Knox County Health Department administered 470 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to this point, but are following the states orders and have stopped using that vaccine at this point.

“Not only is there a pause but the remaining doses of the Johnson and Johnson we have in our refrigerator is being collected,” said Dr. Alan Stewart, Health Officer of Knox County Health Department. “It is a pause until they figure out if there is a side effect to the vaccine.”

While the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently on pause, there are still other options for residents such as Moderna and Pfizer. Dr. Brucken says vaccines remain the solution for overcoming the pandemic.

“The vaccines WORK, and side effects of any kind, are unbelievably rare,” Dr. Brucken said in a statement. “Please stay encouraged, and encouraged those around you, to seek out a vaccine of your choosing very soon. Vaccination is the way through the pandemic, and to a path of normalcy for us all very soon.”

Read Dr. Brucken’s statement in its entirety below:

The FDA and the CDC today recommended a pause in the continued administration of the Johnson & Johnson CoVID 19 Vaccine in the US, amidst reports of six cases of a rare blood clotting issue seen in younger women who received the vaccine. More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered thus far. The recommendation is no more than a usual precaution being taken as the individual cases are studied in further detail. The blood clotting issue being studied are called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a serious disorder of clots in the collecting veins of the brain.

While these cases are alarming, it is imperative to recognize the natural incidence of this disorder is around 0.5 cases per 100,000 people on average, or 1 case per every 200,000 population essentially. That is roughy 5 natural cases per 1 million population. The natural cases are 3 times more likely in females than male, and often follow with estrogen-containing birth control pills and or recent pregnancy, all of which increase the relative likelihood of blood clots.  There have been six case reports within 3 weeks of receiving the vaccine thus far, following 6.8 million doses, an incidence of roughly 1 in 1.1 million vaccine recipients. The incidence, therefore, is much less than the usual natural incidence of the disorder.  Much of the details about the six reported individual cases are not yet widely known, but are being fully investigated by the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluations and Research.  

At this time there is no clear conclusion to be drawn the vaccine caused these events, but an abundance of caution is being followed to fully explore the potential role that receiving the vaccine may have played in the development of these clots.  Similar concerns of blood clotting issues have been reported in the UK with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which has not yet received emergency use authorization in the US (as no formal request has been submitted to date).  The platforms for these two vaccines are similar, which likely adds to the concern of these cases within the J&J recipients. The call to action to pause the distribution comes a wise step to insure every possible safety precaution is being followed with the vaccine rollout.  The action of the FDA and CDC should be taken as a comfort, and not as an outward warning alarm.  

Symptoms of blood clots can range from pain and swelling of the legs or upper extremity (typically one extremity), severe abdominal pain, intractable headaches, unexplainable neurological complaints such as visual disturbances or disequilibrium, and or swelling in the neck veins. Anyone who has already received the J&J vaccine should immediately seek emergency medical attention should they experience any of these symptoms, or speak with your medical provider regarding any concerns.  

Please remember these cases are exceedingly rare, as in 0.00008% of the vaccines administered in the US to date.  In fact, a person is 2.5 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to experience this potential, unproven, side effect. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines (mRNA platforms) remain readily available.  Anyone previously scheduled to receive a J&J vaccine should be encouraged to register and receive either of these two other two vaccines.  The COVID-19 vaccines are SAFE and highly effective in protecting the population from the ill effects of the virus. Deaths and serious health outcomes have plummeted within the vaccinated population. In sharp contrast, the surges in recent hospitalizations are mostly younger and unvaccinated individuals. The vaccines WORK, and side effects of any kind, are unbelievably rare.  Please stay encouraged, and encouraged those around you, to seek out a vaccine of your choosing very soon. Vaccination is the way through the pandemic, and to a path of normalcy for us all very soon.

Darren Brucken, MD

Vigo County Health Commissioner

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