After cases of severe blood clots, US federal health officials have warned doctors and patients to watch for symptoms that could indicate the extremely rare disorder. Six women between the ages of 18 and 48 have developed severe blood clots in the brain days after getting the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. So here are some points that you should look for if you are one of the more than 7 million people who have received the J&J shot or are scheduled to receive it soon.
While speaking at another briefing, Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that those vaccinated a month ago are at low risk. However, she added that people who got it in the last couple of weeks should be on the lookout for headache, leg pain, abdominal pain and shortness of breath. Vaccine recipients with the symptoms cited by officials should seek medical attention in a bid to determine whether they have a low count of blood-clotting platelets in their blood.
It is worth noting that the symptoms are different from the much more common-flu like aches and lethargy that can occur a day after recceing the shot, which are generally harmless side-effects of inoculation against the deadly virus.
While speaking at an American Medical Association webinar, Peter Marks, who is a top official at the US Food and Drug Administration, said that all of the six women known to have suffered cerebral venous sinus thrombosis had low platelet counts, leading experts to speculate that the vaccine somehow, activates platelets and leads to blood clots in the channels that help route blood away from the brain. Marks said that the normal treatment for clots, the blood-thinner heparin, could make the disorder worse or even kill a patient. He even warned that the clots can cause strokes or similar damages to the brain.
While speaking at a news briefing, Marks said, “If someone ends up with a very severe headache or any kind of shortness of breath, pain in their legs, pain in their abdomen … they would want to seek medical attention, and if there are low platelets at that time”.
It is unclear who is at the most risk after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, health officials have said that among people with normal platelet counts, the disease affects 2 to 14 per million per year. Also, it is worth noting that the blood clots appear to be similar to problems caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe.
Marks, who the head of the FDA’s Center fr Biologics Evaluation and Research, said though the cases could just be a statistical aberration, the health authorities sought to exercise an abundance of caution. He further informed that the safety signals were seen between 6 and 13 days after vaccination and were identified by FDA through a government-run vaccine adverse event reporting system. Marks said that no definitive cause or disorder has yet been determined. But he added that the clots could be tied to the immune response after vaccination that leads to an activation of platelets and clotting.
In a joint statement, the US FDA and CDC have already said that they “are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution”. The CDC will also convene a meeting on Wednesday of its Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices to review the cases and assess their potential significance. The FDA will also review the CDC assessment as it also investigates these cases.