The first case of a rare blood-clotting condition thought to be linked to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been diagnosed in Utah.
A man under 50 was recently diagnosed with vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia, also known as VITT, at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, university health officials said Wednesday.
The patient was treated and is now recovering at home, according to Dr. Yazan Abou-Ismail, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology at University of Utah Health.
“He continues to do well and feel well,” Abou-Ismail said at a Wednesday news conference.
The blood clot condition led to a nationwide pause on administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last month after six cases were reported among over 6 million people who received the vaccine. The pause was lifted on April 23 after federal regulators determined the vaccine’s continued use is safe.
The man got the vaccine in April, and about 10 days later he started experiencing leg pain, Abou-Ismail said. He went to an emergency room, where doctors discovered he had a low blood platelet count and deep vein thrombosis. The man was treated with blood thinners and discharged.
However, a few days later the man experienced chest pains, so he went back to the emergency room, Abou-Ismail said. With the timeline and symptoms, doctors immediately suspected the man could be experiencing a side effect of the vaccine, and he was diagnosed with VITT last week, Abou-Ismail said.
Within about 48 hours, the man’s platelet count normalized, and his other symptoms resolved, so he was again discharged. Doctors followed up with him several days ago and he continues to improve, Abou-Ismail said.
So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 17 cases of VITT in the United States suspected to be linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of about 8 million doses administered, according to Abou-Ismail. All of those cases were in women.
The Utah case is the third U.S. instance where VITT is highly suspected in a man, but the CDC hasn’t confirmed them as such, Abou-Ismail said. The Utah man was diagnosed with VITT by Utah doctors, but officials with the CDC have indicated they want to investigate the case further.
Although the condition can be serious, if it is recognized early, it is treatable. After the pause, the CDC released guidelines on how to treat VITT, and if treated properly, it should take care of the condition for patients, Abou-Ismail said. Anyone who experiences headaches, blurry vision, seizures or leg pain in the weeks after they receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is encouraged to contact their doctor.
Abou-Ismail and Dr. Richard Orlandi, the University of Utah Health’s associate chief medical officer for ambulatory health, reiterated that the chances of developing the blood clotting condition from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is extremely rare. The risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms from the disease is much higher than being diagnosed with VITT, Orlandi said.
“We will continue to have faith in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. … The benefits far outweigh the risks,” Orlandi said.
480 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday
Utah’s number of COVID-19 cases increased by 480 on Wednesday, with two more deaths and 18,687 new vaccinations reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.
The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 352, according to the health department. The state recorded 15,569 tests since Tuesday. Of those, 7,190 were people who had not previously been tested for COVID-19. The seven-day average for positive results for the “people over people” method is now 6.6%. The positive rate when all tests are factored in is now 3.5%.
There are 153 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 62 in intensive care, state data shows. About 72% of all intensive care unit beds in Utah are now occupied, including about 74% of ICU beds in the state’s 16 referral hospitals. About 55% of Utah’s non-ICU hospital beds are occupied as of Wednesday, state data shows.
A total of 2,223,511 vaccine doses have been administered in the state and 1,327,302 Utahns have now received at least a first vaccine dose, and 986,146 are now considered fully vaccinated.
The two deaths reported Wednesday were a Weber County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when he died, and a Millard County woman who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when she died.
Wednesday’s totals give Utah 398,979 confirmed cases, 16,278 hospitalizations and 2,219 total deaths from the disease.
The state estimates there are now 8,106 active COVID-19 cases in Utah.