Last week the European Medicines Agency released a statement after it conducted an investigation into the possible link between Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine and very rare cases of unusual blood clots. The EMA proposed an explanation for the link, one that is also thought to account for the association between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and blood clots. The European health body investigated similar cases in people who had received the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and concluded the combination of blood clots with low blood platelets were a “possible” and “extremely rare” side effect.
The blood clots formed in veins in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) or in the abdomen (splanchnic vein thrombosis) and in arteries, together with low levels of blood platelets and sometimes bleeding, states the BMJ article.
“All US cases relating to the Janssen vaccine occurred in people aged under 60 within three weeks post-vaccination, and the majority were in women,” notes the article.
However, as it points out, the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) said there was not yet enough evidence to determine specific risk factors for these clots.
The PRAC is the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) committee responsible for assessing and monitoring the safety of human medicines.
How the blood clot prevalence compares from vaccine to vaccine
As of April 4, the EMA said that eight cases had been reported after receiving the Janssen vaccine (all in the US), 287 cases were reported after the AstraZeneca vaccine (142 in the European Economic Area), 25 after Pfizer’s vaccine, and five after Moderna’s.
Commenting on the AstraZeneca figure, Sabine Straus, chair of the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee, said: “People in Europe are very aware of it, and we will probably receive more reports now.
“So, the reporting might be more aligned with the occurrence.”
Additional studies into these unusual blood clots are being carried out by AstraZeneca, Janssen, and the EMA.
According to the PRAC, a warning about the clots will be added to the product information for the Janssen vaccine, describing them as a “very rare side effect.”
According to the BMJ article, people have been told to seek urgent medical attention if they have any of the following symptoms in the three weeks after vaccination with the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Leg swelling
- Persistent abdominal pain
- Neurological symptoms, such as severe and persistent headaches or blurred vision; or
- Tiny blood spots under the skin beyond the site of the injection.
Am I eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine?
The NHS is currently offering the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to people most at risk.
The order in which people will be offered the vaccine is based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Everyone aged 45 and over can get the COVID-19 vaccine.
You can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.
If you are not eligible yet, wait to be contacted. The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have the COVID-19 vaccine.
It’s important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.
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