By Lana Sumner-Borema
The availability of COVID-19 vaccines caused massive relief around the globe and also raised questions about the vaccine that have left many unwilling to get vaccinated. There is a widespread concern about getting blood clots from the vaccine. As reported by the FDA on April 13, 2021, six cases out of the 6.8 million doses of J&J vaccines issued caused blood clots, leading to a temporary ten-day hold on administration of the vaccine.
According to hepatologist Kylene Metzger at University of Utah Health, a doctor who specializes in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas, this clotting is known as Vaccine-Induced Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT). VITT clotting is unique to J&J and AstraZenca—a vaccine manufactured by British and Swedish parties—as both are not Messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccines.
According to Metzger’s article “Blood Clotting, Covid-19 and Vaccines,” the clotting is caused in rare cases when “... antibodies that the body produces as a side effect of the vaccine lead to uncontrolled activation of platelets. This causes both low platelet counts and blood clots to form in unusual areas.”
Metzger adds that the CDC stated as of June 30, 2021 that the probability of clotting from the J&J vaccine is 35 out of 12.5 million cases, “two to three cases per million,” or a .0002 percent chance risk. The chance of getting a blood clot from COVID-19 itself is a 20 to 40 percent risk in severe cases and a 3 to 9 percent risk in mild or moderate cases.
According to this data, not being vaccinated multiplies your chances of getting blood clots by 15,000 in the mildest cases of COVID-19, and 200,000 in most severe cases.
There is also an increased risk of clotting in COVID-19 patients with underlying illnesses, according to the CDC. This includes patients with a history of blood clots, hereditary blood clotting disorder, obese patients, cancer patients, and those with hypertension or diabetes.
Junior biochemistry major at Barry, Jakub Ettrich, is convinced by these statistics and accredits his fearlessness in getting vaccinated to his family’s background in science.
“None of us hesitated to get the vaccine since all of us have gotten many vaccines over the years and never experienced any issues,” said Ettrich. “We also all have backgrounds in the scientific realm so we trusted the science.”
Ettrich is puzzled by the widespread fear of blood clots from the vaccine. He notes that there are other clot-causing pharmaceuticals widely used in America.
“I knew before [getting vaccinated] that other medicines, like birth control, also cause blood clots and no one really talks about that,” said Ettrich.
Maria Stampolkou, a senior criminology and sociology major and a native of Thessaloniki in Greece, believes there is an irrational fear of the vaccine in her country. She came to this realization when she heard her parents' perspective on the vaccine.
“The media presents the vaccine differently in the United States than in Greece,” said Stampolkou. “I [feel] in the United States the message is more ‘Get vaccinated. Protect yourself and others,’ while in Greece the message is that the government inserts chips to track you all the time.”
Despite the media’s negative presentation, Stampolkou made her parents read articles about the COVID-19 vaccine to educate themselves before making their decision.
“Now, they are big advocates of vaccination,” said Stampolkou. “They try to talk to other friends and family about getting vaccinated because it’s true: the vaccine can save lives.”
Despite this belief, Stampolkou also shared the negative experiences she had with the vaccine. For a week after her dosage of J&J, Stampolkou found herself feeling fatigued, something uncommon to the athlete on the rowing team.
Still, a week of fatigue was worth it for Stampolkou, who now feels “free” of her fear of the virus.
As new variants of COVID-19 spread, widespread vaccination is becoming an important solution. Viruses are smarter than complex human cells and without the vaccine, the virus may continue to mutate in order to take advantage of these cells.
A booster dose is available to anyone 18 or older in a high-risk setting, like a college campus. The patient must have received their first dose of the J&J vaccine two months ago or the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine six months ago. If you are still hesitant about the vaccine, read trustworthy research and talk to doctors before making your decision.