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Nebraska health officials say clotting events associated with Johnson and Johnson are ‘one in a million’

Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 5:10 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - No Nebraskans will be getting the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine while the CDC and FDA investigate six cases of rare blood clots in women who had recently gotten that vaccine.

One of those cases, is in Nebraska.

However, health officials are maintaining that nobody needs to be worried yet, because even if these cases are associated with the vaccine, the chance it could happen to you are one in a million.

The condition these women experienced is a rare blood clot called a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). The reason it was so important to put a pause on the vaccine rollout and make the community aware of this is because these clots can’t be treated with blood thinners like Heparin; those actually make the condition much worse.

“I think they are doing the exactly right thing which is to put a pause so we can examine these cases and determine if they’re related to the vaccine,” Dr. Mark Rupp, infectious disease doctor with UNMC said.

The six cases of CVST were in women age 18 to 48 that got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine between one and three weeks before the onset of the clots.

Over the coming days, health officials will be meeting to compare those cases and determine if it’s safe to continue use of the vaccine.

“This hold shows the system is working,” Dr. David Quimby, infectious disease doctor with CHI Health said.

Doctors said it’s important to put these cases into perspective.

“Even if these rare events are associated with the vaccine, they’re on the order of one in a million at this time,” Dr. Rupp said. “But the risk of one in a million compared to the risk of having severe COVID-19 favors getting the vaccine.”

It’s likely if the vaccines are found to be responsible for these clots it’s possible the FDA would alter who is eligible to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to not include those who are most at risk for the clots, like young women.

Symptoms of the blood clot are severe headaches, abdominal pain and leg swelling. If you have these symptoms and have gotten the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in the last three weeks, you are urged to seek medical attention.

“We need to make sure we’re not over-reacting,” Dr. Rupp said. “No matter what we do this is going to reinforce vaccine hesitancy but I would reinforce this is an extremely rare event.”

Doctors also reminded Nebraskans that neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccine, which use different technology than the Johnson and Johnson have reported cases of this condition and many more of those doses have been given.

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