Nebraskan among 6 with potential Johnson & Johnson vaccine clotting complication, CDC reports

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 10:40 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 10:52 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - One of the six cases being examined in relation to the blood clot reports that halted the distribution of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday is a Nebraska woman, according to a CDC report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday they were investigating unusual clots that occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. The clots occurred in veins that drain blood from the brain and occurred together with low platelets.

All six cases were in women between the ages of 18 and 48; there was one death and all remained under investigation.

According to a CDC report from April 2, the Nebraskan among the six is a 48-year-old woman who was vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson Lot No. 1805020 on March 9 and is now “currently hospitalized with profound bleeding and clotting, suspect dysfibrinogenemia, otherwise healthy without history of dysfibrinogenmeia.”

Dysfibrinogenemia is described by the National Institutes of Health as a clotting disorder caused by an abnormal form of a liver protein, called fibrinogen, that helps control bleeding.

The CDC report, via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System known as VAERS, lists the woman’s condition as “serious” and “life-threatening.”

A statement from the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services said it, the Douglas County Health Department, and Nebraska Medicine had consulted with the CDC and FDA about the case on April 8.

More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been given in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects. Federally run mass vaccination sites paused the use of the J&J shot Tuesday morning, as did DHHS, DCHD, and other local health departments.

During a separate livestream with UNMC on Tuesday afternoon, Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said that during this “pause” in J&J distribution, the CDC and FDA are looking for commonalities between the six cases of blood clots.

Dr. Mark Rupp, an infectious disease expert from UNMC who was also on the Tuesday afternoon livestream, said he supported the “pause” in J&J vaccination distribution so that it can be determined whether the clotting events have been caused by that vaccine. He said it was not unlike what is happening in Europe with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I think we’re doing exactly the right thing, which is to put a brief pause so we can examine these cases and ascertain whether they’re related to the vaccine and if so, are there any modifications or precautions that need to be taken,” Rupp said.

In the meantime, Dr. Pour said the county has enough supply of Pfizer and Moderna doses that vaccination clinics and appointments can continue as planned.

Douglas County residents scheduled to receive 4,400 J&J vaccinations this week were notified that they would instead be receiving Moderna doses, she said, noting that 10 of those people opted instead to wait on the decision regarding the J&J vaccine before proceeding with their vaccination.

CHI Health Drs. Renuga Vivekanandan and David Quimby both said in a separate video conference call that the J&J vaccination supply was already lower than the allocations of Moderna and Pfizer, which should be more than enough to cover any gaps in J&J shot appointments.

While it’s important to understand what’s happening with the J&J vaccine, Dr. Rupp said the risk of 1 in a million is still lower than the risk of severe illness that can be caused by COVID-19. The CHI doctors said that getting a blood clot from COVID-19 was higher than the risk of getting one from a COVID-19 vaccination.

“I would reinforce again this is an extremely rare event, we aren’t seeing this with the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna and those have been administered now in tens of millions, over a hundred million persons now throughout the United States,” Rupp said.

Stressing that such complications are extremely rare, Dr. Pour said those who have received a Johnson & Johnson vaccination since March 23 should be on the lookout for concerning symptoms, including severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing such symptoms within three weeks after vaccination should contact their healthcare provider, or seek medical care, she said.

Dr. Quimby, an infectious disease doctor at Creighton-Bergan Mercy, said more information on the possible vaccination complication is expected to come out in the next few days. He also made the connection with AstraZeneca, saying it’s possible J&J vaccinations could be restricted to certain age groups as well — though it’s hard to make that call now.

Reporter Marlo Lundak and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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