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CDC Recommends ‘Pause’ on J&J COVID Vaccine, Fauci Says Watch for ‘Severe Headache,' 'Difficulty Breathing'

By Emma Riley | April 14, 2021 | 12:51pm EDT
(Screenshot, CDC)
(Screenshot, CDC)

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert on Tuesday about six cases of blood clotting among women who had received the COVID vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that women who have received the shot should watch for “some symptoms, such as severe headache, some difficulty in movement, or some chest discomfort and difficulty breathing.”

One of the six women affected died, according to the CDC.

The CDC and FDA have recommended a “pause” in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of an “abundance of caution.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci.  (Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci. (Getty Images)

“This is a very rare event,” Fauci told the CBS Evening News on April 13. “It's less than one in a million. Having said that, you still want to be alert to some symptoms, such as severe headache, some difficulty in movement, or some chest discomfort and difficulty breathing.”

“This adverse event occurs between six days and 13 days” of vaccination, said Fauci. “So, if you've had it a month or two ago, I think you really don't need to worry about anything.”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In its April 13 health alert, the CDC said, “As of April 12, 2021, approximately 6.85 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine (Janssen) have been administered in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing data involving six U.S. cases of a rare type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J COVID-19 vaccine that were reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).”

“In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia),” states the alert. “All six cases occurred among women aged 18–48 years. The interval from vaccine receipt to symptom onset ranged from 6–13 days. One patient died.”

“CDC will convene an emergency meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, to further review these cases and assess potential implications on vaccine policy. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases,” reads the health alert.

A box of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine doses are pictured at Grubb's Pharmacy on Capitol Hill on Monday, April 12, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
A box of Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine doses are pictured at Grubb's Pharmacy on Capitol Hill on Monday, April 12, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“Until that process is complete, CDC and FDA are recommending a pause in the use of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” said the CDC. “The purpose of this Health Alert is, in part, to ensure that the healthcare provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can provide proper management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.” (Emphasis added.)

CBS asked Dr. Fauci whether this potential problem has to do with hormones because the women are of childbearing age.

 “There have been similar types of phenomena that have occurred during pregnancy,” he told CBS. “Clotting abnormalities are known in women who take birth control pills, so certainly there could be a hormonal aspect to this.

CBS also asked, “Do you think birth control might play a role?” Fauci said, “We don't know that. And that's one of the questions that's going to be asked about these people, was there a commonality of people on birth control pills? We don't know the answer to that right now.”

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