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Blood clots from J&J vaccine, what are the possible symptoms?

FILE: Medical assistant Tracey Wootton holds several syringes full of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru vaccination clinic at Intermountain Healthcare’s The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray on March 4, 2021. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – After six women reported blood clots associated with the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine, Utah and federal health officials called for a pause on administering it.  Thousands of Utahns have already received this shot and should be aware of the specific symptoms. 

Utah resident Angela Keddington was part of the J&J trial in December.  As a nurse, she felt helpless seeing so many sick people at the height of the pandemic. She wanted to help find a cure.

Those in the J&J trial phase knew of the potential risks

When she signed up, she said test subjects were given a 38-page document, highlighting all of the issues that arose during the testing process.  She said they were fully aware the trial had been paused and resumed after one of the subjects developed blood clots in October.

“I did know about this.  This was one [person] in 60 thousand that it had happened to when I signed myself up to do it,” Keddington said.  “I would absolutely do it again, today.”

Since more women have experienced blood clots, she believes pausing the rollout to investigate these cases is the best strategy.

“Them being epically proactive [proactive on a grand scale] is definitely the best thing to do, but I think everyone shouldn’t run and panic at this point,” Keddington said.

Why women are experiencing these side effects

Doctor Tamara Sheffield with Intermountain Healthcare said it comes down to hormones that are present in women of childbearing age.

“Those individuals, because of [the hormonal potential for] childbearing, they’re more predisposed to clot,” she said.

Sheffield said symptoms of blood clots include shortness of breath, severe headaches, and serious abdominal pain. 

“You know something is wrong, and at that point, you go and get care,” Sheffield said.  “If it’s severe enough that you would go to the emergency room anyway, go to the emergency room.  If you’re having questions, call your doctor and ask.”

How and why these potential blot clots are different

Emergency room doctor Marion Bishop said these are not the typical blood clots that develop in the legs, which can be prevented with things like exercise.  These clots are in the brain.

Bishop said, “This rare blood clot in the brain is in a little bit of a different category.”

Since traditional prevention measures don’t work, she suggests that anyone who received the vaccine within the last two weeks keep a close eye out for symptoms.  If they received the vaccine three or more weeks ago, they’re likely not going to have health issues.