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AdventHealth Epidemiologist Provides Some Answers On J&J Vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, shown here in a hospital in Denver.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, shown here in a hospital in Denver.

Dr. Vincent Hsu, an epidemiologist and AdventHealth’s infection control officer, discusses the vaccine, complications and why people should still keep getting vaccinated.

We had some questions about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the CDC and FDA’s recommendations to pause giving the shots.

The federal agencies are investigating reports of "rare" blood clots suffered by six women who received one-dose vaccine. In Florida, where more than 473,000 people have received the one-dose shot, the vaccine was being pulled from distribution sites.

WMNF's Danielle Prieur talked to Dr. Vincent Hsu, an epidemiologist and AdventHealth’s infection control officer, about the vaccine, complications and why people should still keep getting vaccinated. 


Danielle Prieur: How likely would it be to develop these blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

Dr. Hsu: So right now the reports that we have heard from the FDA, and CDC, are that six people, six women have developed these blood clots in the venous system of the brain.

And this is out of 6.8 million doses. So the incidence is less than one in a million. And that we define as extremely rare side effects. So, you know, so right now, yes, the it is very, very unlikely that of the people that have received the J&J that they would develop these, these reactions.

But out of an abundance of precaution, this, the CDC and the FDA have recommended that they temporarily stop the vaccine administration at this time, pending further investigations.

Danielle: I’m not a medical person but it seems interesting that it was all in women? Do you think there’s any sort of gender-based correlation there. That women might be more susceptible to these blood clots?

Dr. Hsu: So ... there’s still fact-finding to be done.

They’re still looking at the data. We do know that, for example, some women are more prone to developing certain autoimmune disorders, and this could be something related to that.

So it’s really hard to say right now, but yes, I do agree that the fact that they are all women and tend to be younger women, you know, under the age of 50, is something that needs to be looked into further.

Danielle: So I have a friend who was vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson on Saturday. Should she and other people who have been vaccinated recently be concerned? If so, what should they be looking for?

Dr. Hsu: So what we know about these particular events is that they do occur up to two or maybe three weeks after the event.

I think the actual press release said it was between six and 13 days. But the FDA and CDC have suggested that if it’s been three weeks or less, since you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you should look for specific symptoms that could indicate a a venous blood clot, and those include significant headaches, severe abdominal pain, shortness of breath, pain in the legs, those could all be signs of a clot.

And again, you know, it’s going to be a very, very rare person that develops this.

But we do want to make sure that those that have been vaccinated recently with J&J, look out for that. And if they develop any of those symptoms, they should call their physician. If it’s more than four weeks out, then the likelihood that is truly a blood clot from the vaccine just goes even lower than that.

Danielle: Now I know that AdventHealth never used the Johnson & Johnson so everybody whose been vaccinated by you is in the clear for now, right?

Dr. Hsu: AdventHealth has vaccinated a very small handful of employees. Just just just a very small number recently, so it’s too early to tell if there’s any issues. We’ve had a lot of experience with the Moderna, with the Pfizer vaccines.

Danielle: Any strange symptoms people should be looking for with the Pfizer and the Moderna? I know the majority of people have gotten those. Anything we should be worried about with those?

Dr. Hsu: Well, some of the things that have been reported with the Pfizer and Moderna include you know, I mean, the most common, of course, include the sore arm, there are reports of fevers and, and minor headaches that have occurred, people have chills, I mean, that’s something that can be expected.

You know, sometimes some of the people that have have gotten Moderna have had rash, you know, but again, these are all what we call self limited, they go away on its own, they, you know, after after a little while, you get back to normal.

So, the serious adverse reactions such as what we call anaphylaxis does occur rarely. Again, it’s something on the order of four per million doses. So very, very rare.

Danielle: I guess my last question is for people that are kind of freaked out after today about getting vaccinated. What would you tell them. People that are like I’m not getting vaccinated now because of this.

Dr. Hsu: Right now, you know, I would say, yes, I understand the concerns about the J&J.

You know, we want we want to make sure that our vaccines are as safe as possible and holding off on continuing vaccines until information can be provided is is reasonable. I agree with that. That should not deter you from understanding that millions of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been given without any, without any significant issues. And the most important thing is to recognize we are still in a pandemic.

We who live in Florida, we don’t want to see another rise in cases.

And that has occurred in other parts of the country such as Michigan.

We are at risk, we still have a lot of tourists here, we still have not vaccinated everyone to the point where we have this herd immunity. So it’s extremely important that everyone, you know, consider doing their part. It’s not just to protect you. But by getting yourself vaccinated, not only do you protect yourself, you’re also helping to protect other people by by being the barrier that prevents transmission to others. So we want to get back to normal. And I support that.

But in order to do that, we all have to do our part to get vaccinated. And we know that the vast majority of people have done that we can do that safely. We know it’s it’s very effective. So yes, it’s important to get that vaccine.

Here's What You Need to Know About the J&J Vaccine with Dr. Hsu

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