Health officers for eight greater Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley issued a joint statement Sunday in agreement with federal guidance on use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.
After a cautionary pause in use of the J&J vaccine prompted by rare cases of blood clotting in a total of 15 women, an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the pause be lifted and a warning label be added. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that they accepted the committee’s recommendation.
Health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Solano counties, as well as in Berkeley, concurred with those recommendations in Sunday’s statement, saying:
“[T]he Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and that Bay Area health providers should resume its administration to prevent community spread and severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
The health officers stressed that risk of developing the severe blood clotting condition is “extremely low.” Of women between the ages of 18 and 49, the risk is 7 per million doses given. Nearly 8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., with 15 total confirmed cases of the rare but serious side effect. The ACIP Friday narrowed down the highest risk demographic to women between 30 and 39 years of age.
By contrast, the risk of dying from a Covid-19 infection in the U.S. is 1 in 56, according to the Bay Area health officers, which aligns with data reported by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
One woman did die after developing the blood clot condition, but health officials discovered that the common method of treatment — use of a blood thinner known as heparin — exacerbated the patient’s illness. The medical community has since been advised to avoid using heparin in treatment of this particular condition.
People who have received the J&J vaccine should monitor themselves for symptoms, which include headache, abdominal pain, leg pain and shortness of breath. According to the Bay Area statement, the rare symptoms typically present within three weeks. Anyone experiencing symptoms should immediately contact their healthcare provider.
Sonoma and San Mateo counties were notably absent from the joint statement, though the San Mateo County health officer separately agreed with lifting the pause.