By CBS4 Medical Editor Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4)– The news that the Johnson & Johnson or “Janssen” COVID vaccine is “being paused” is probably something that makes you a bit nervous, and certainly raises a bunch of questions of what exactly is going on during this roller coaster ride of a seemingly endless pandemic.

Let’s take a look at the big picture.

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(credit: CBS)

What happened: The FDA temporarily paused the use of J&J as it takes a look at the cases of six women who developed serious blood clots after receiving the single shot vaccine. All of the women were between the ages of 18-48. At this point, this really seems rare. More than 6.8 million shots of J&J have been given, so the risk at this point calculates out to less than one in a million.

Why did it happen: We’re not sure. The clots showed up 6-13 days after the vaccines were given. So far, there is no sign that these women had anything is common, such as an underlying health condition, or took any medications such as the birth control pill that might predispose them to clots. We do know that women, especially younger women, tend to have a very robust immune system, so there is always a possibility that a hyper autoimmune reaction took place, causing the body attack itself, causing the clots to form.

Is this similar to what happened at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Not at all. Those mass vaccinations were stopped because of immediate non-threatening conditions such as nausea, lightheadedness, and feeling faint—symptoms that can be seen with any injection. They are not related in any way to this “pause”.

What to look for if you’ve already had a J&J vaccine:   If you had your vaccine more than three weeks ago, the risk of anything like this is essentially zero. Plus, your vaccine was effective.  If you had your vaccine less than 2-3 weeks ago, your risk is really, really low for having a problem. But you should be on the lookout for signs of a clot. Working from toe to head: if you get leg pain or swelling; abdominal pain; chest pain or shortness of breath; or a headache or odd symptoms such as blurred vision—you should be checked out. One other thing that may warrant your attention: any new little red dots, especially clusters or groups, on your skin. Medically these are known as petechiae, and can be caused by low platelets in the blood. Low platelets have been linked to these rare clots. If you have any concerns, at any time, male or female, young or older, check in with a healthcare provider.

What about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines: No link with this issue. These vaccines have been found to be safe and effective. They use mRNA technology, which is different that the J&J technology. The J&JJ technology is similar to the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which is not yet been authorized for use in the U.S. And yes, in Europe, the AZ vaccine has been linked to blood clots, at a rate of about one in one million.

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What’s next: The FDA and CDC will continue to review the cases and look for other case. An independent vaccine advisory committee will weigh in Wednesday to look at the issue. This independent board is very important, and very powerful when it comes to review. That review process is open to the public and extremely transparent.

ATHENS, OHIO, UNITED STATES – 2021/03/09: Athens City-County Health Department Director of Nursing, Crystal Jones, 52, loads syringes with the vaccine on the first day of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine being made available to residents.
The Athens City-County Health Department collaborated with Ohio University to roll out the new Johnson & Johnson (COVID-19) Vaccine, which only requires one shot instead of two. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Is this the end of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine:  No. This is a voluntary pause, not a mandate or a case where the vaccine is banned. There is a good chance the review will go quickly, and pending that review, the existing vaccines will be back in use within days to a week, possibly with some modifications as to who can and cannot use it. It’s hard to predict exactly.

In the meantime, it’s important to recognize that so far, the J&J vaccine has made up less than 5% of COVID vaccines given to date. And there is an abundance of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, so we are still on pace to administer 3 million vaccines a day nationally.

Final note: Your risk of a clot from a Johnson and Johnson vaccine is less than one in one million.

Your risk of a clot if you get COVID: one in 20.

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Dr. Dave Hnida