The CDC and FDA have recommended pausing the use of the single-dose vaccine while the blood clots are investigated.
All of the women who had the blood clots were 18-48 years old and had gotten the vaccine within the past two weeks of the clot. One of the clots was fatal and another woman is in critical condition, health officials said.
"I'd like to stress these events appear to be extremely rare. However, COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority," FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock said during a news conference. "We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause."
This time will be used to investigate the incidents and provide information to healthcare providers and people who have gotten the vaccine.
"Right now, this is about a one in a million event, so we’re not sure if this is directly related to the vaccine, indirectly related to the vaccine. We don’t know what risk factors they had going into it. There’s a lot more we don’t know than we do know," said Dr. Matthew Sims, the director of infectious disease research at Beaumont.
More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
Sims cautioned against worrying if you have gotten the J&J shot.
"I would be cautious on jumping the gun and worrying that I’m definitely going to get it because I got the shot," he said.
Sims said the pause is to allow health officials to investigate the vaccine and determine if there are other factors involved and if there is a larger concern.
"This smaller risk is probably not enough to outweigh the benefit of the vaccine, not even close to enough to outweigh the benefit of the vaccine when you think about how many people the vaccine can stop from getting COVID, how many people we can stop the spread of COVID to, and how many people who even if they do get COVID with the vaccine won’t end up in the hospital," he said. "The benefits of the vaccine are very clear. This risk is not as clear, and it is very, very, very rare."
Sims also noted that while the CDC and FDA have recommended pausing the vaccine’s use, it has not been taken off the market.
He said that while he understands some people may be scared by the news, the odds of having a severe reaction are "extremely, extremely low."
"Most medicines on the market have some side effects in that range. If you ever read the brochure, you probably would be just as scared," he said.
Sims added that this blood clot issue is only associated with the J&J vaccine, and no major side effects have been reported with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
According to Sims, while the blood clots are rare, if you experience any of the symptoms that could indicate you may have one, you should contact your doctor. These symptoms are stroke-like and may include headaches that are severe and don’t go away, blurred vision, and seizures.
Both the FDA and CDC are recommending that people who received the vaccine who experience severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the shot should contact their doctor.
Sims noted that "most of the time the headache is just going to be a headache," but you can call your doctor if you are worried about a headache you have.