Severe COVID-19 vaccine reactions are rare La Crosse health experts say

La Crosse health experts say Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension is part of a normal research process out of caution

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse medical experts say the news today shows vaccine research is working. Tuesday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services instructed Wisconsin providers to stop administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The decision comes after the federal review of side effects and a recommendation by the Federal Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a recommendation. It’s not a mandate and it’s out of an abundance of caution,” director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks said on a Tuesday morning Zoom news conference.

The recommended suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine proves the vaccine safety monitoring system works according to Gundersen Health System’s Dr. Raj Naik.

“There’s a reason it’s in place,” Naik said.

Six cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot have been reported in the U.S. out of 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses given. The six cases included women ages 18-48 and occurred 6-13 days after vaccination.

It’s a small fraction of a percent. Naik said a lightning strike is a great risk than a severe COVID-19 vaccine reaction.

“The risk of being struck by lightning is about one in a million,” Raik said.

However, Naik said the decision to look into these reactions is appropriate.

“The timing of the clots was within the two weeks of receiving the vaccine,” Naik said. “I think the timing definitely requires us to think about this really seriously.”

Both Mayo Clinic Health System and Gundersen suspended the vaccine’s use. Anyone with severe headaches, leg pain, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath should seek emergency care.

“If you’re more than two or three weeks out from your Johnson & Johnson vaccine you really don’t have anything to be concerned about,” Dr. Erin Morcomb of Mayo Clinic Health System. “If you are in that time frame, odds are you’ll be completely fine, because again this an extremely rare, adverse event.”

The millions of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses already given are not affected by the clotting seen in these six cases.

Officials at Mayo Clinic Health System say they’ve administered about 700 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Gundersen gave about 1,200 doses. So far there have been no adverse reactions from any of those doses.

La Crosse health officials say they don’t anticipate issues storing the left-over Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses. Those doses can be stored at warmer temperatures.