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What you should know if you received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

And what does this mean for your appointment?

In this Feb. 17, 2021, file photo, a health care worker receives a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a hospital in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa.
In this Feb. 17, 2021, file photo, a health care worker receives a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a hospital in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa has suspended giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a “precautionary measure” following the FDA decision in the United States to pause the use of the vaccine while very rare blood clot cases are examined.
Nardus Engelbrecht, Associated Press

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine took a big turn Tuesday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration asked for vaccination sites to pause their use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to reports of blood clots.

Naturally, you might have some questions about what this means for you. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know and what you should do.

Why was the Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration paused the rollout of the J&J vaccine due to “six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine,” according to the FDA.

  • The cases were all from women ages 18 to 48.
  • The blood clots happened about one to two weeks after vaccination.

What are blood clots symptoms?

FDA released a list of symptoms and side effects that you’ll want to look out for if you’re concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine leading to blood clots, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • Severe headache.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Leg pain.
  • Shortness of breath.

The FDA said people who experience these symptoms should contact their health care provider for more information and treatment, according to my report for the Deseret News.

How should you react?

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist affiliated with Georgetown University, told The Washington Post that people shouldn’t overreact to the news just yet. More information may come out soon.

  • “I am a woman between the ages of 18 and 48 who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine eight days ago, and I recommend that people do what I’m doing, which is not panic,” she said. “First of all, we don’t know if these six cases are actually associated with the vaccine. We don’t know if those six cases had some other conditions that would have predisposed them to having blood clots like this. We don’t know a lot about it, which is why there’s a pause.”

Lisa Maragakis, an associate professor of infectious disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, also told The Washington Post that people should exercise caution.

  • “Any time a message like this comes out, particularly for those who are within that two-week window, there’s a concern about ‘What does this mean for me?’” Maragakis said. “I feel like overwhelmingly the message should be one of reassurance, that we don’t yet know if these events are even associated with a vaccine. But even if they are, we know that serious events can happen with vaccines. These events are serious but appear to be, at least at this point, very rare.”

What about your vaccine appointment?

Health officials from multiple states across the country had to pause their COVID-19 vaccinations because of the Johnson & Johnson pause. Though some vaccination sites closed down temporarily, some health experts gave those with J&J appointments either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, The New York Times reports.

  • Multiple states said their vaccinations would not slow down because of the J&J pause. However, there were some areas that did have to close down their vaccinations sites. For example, a mass vaccination site in Illinois — which was set to give 1,000 people some vaccines — closed down because of the news. Those 1,000 were not given appointments on the day.
  • “In much of the country, public health officials said they were able to offer other vaccines to people who had been scheduled to receive a Johnson & Johnson shot,” according to The New York Times.

University of Utah Health officials told the Deseret News that patients who were going to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were offered Pfizer vaccines instead.

  • Intermountain Healthcare spokesman Lance Madigan said in a statement to the Deseret News that it will be “working to reschedule individuals with appointments for the J&J vaccine for another option. That might mean they have to go to another location, but we are still encouraging individuals to be vaccinated.”

What to know if you’re from Utah

Vaccine availability may be reduced because of the news. But health officials still want Utahns to get vaccinated because it still offers safety against COVID-19.

  • “Severe side effects are possible but rare, while severe side effects are higher risk for contracting COVID itself. If you have questions, you should look to good information sources such as the CDC or your physician,” Madigan told the Deseret News.