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COVID-19 Update April 2021: Urgent Update on the COVID Vaccine and Clots- They Remain Very, Very Safe

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

Glossary

  • Virus– a type of germ that consists solely of a bit of genetic material (DNA or RNA) wrapped in a protein coat.  The coat gets the genes into the target cell where the genes force the cell to make zillions of new viruses, and on it goes.
  • Coronavirus– a species name of a number of different viruses.  Called corona because its protein coat is studded with spike shapes that form a crown, halo, or corona of spikes
  • SARS-CoV-2– the specific name of the new coronavirus
  • COVID-19-the name of the illness that the new coronavirus is causing
  • Endemic– an illness always present in a region.  One could say strep throat is endemic in the US
  • Epidemic– a sudden burst of an illness that comes and goes over a limited time
  • Pandemic– an epidemic that bursts across the world not just one region
  • Spreadability– how contagious is the disease, how many people will end up infected
  • Symptoms- the experience of being ill, for example- fever, cough, headaches, loss of smell etc.
    • Asymptomatic– literally means “without symptoms”.  For COVID-19 it refers a person infected with the virus but has no and will have not symptoms
    • Presymptomatic– This is a person who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and will feel sick, but hasn’t yet
  • Severity– what harm does the disease cause, in terms of  how sick you get and how many it will kill
  • Mask- a mask is a loose-fitting cloth or textile that covers the mouth and nose loosely.  A surgical mask is a mask used in surgery
  • Respirator-  for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory illnesses, a respirator is a mask that fits very snugly or tightly to the user’s face.  An N95 mask is a respirator.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)- PPE are any item that covers any part of the body with the design and intent of keeping viruses in the environment from infecting the wearer of the PPE. PPE’s include all masks (which includes respirators), face shields, eye shields, gloves, gowns.
  • Ventilator- a ventilator is a machine that can force a person unable to breathe to inhale and exhale and control both effectively.  They are sometimes called respirators, but during this pandemic the word respirator is now reserved for reference to a tightly fit mask.
  • Live Virus Swab– this is the swab which attempts to swipe live virus from one’s nose or throat tosee if you are currently infected.
  • Antibody Test- (aka serology test) this is the blood test which looks for antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 virus tosee if you have been infected in the past.
  • Vaccine Terms
    • Vaccine or Immunization– a dose of a substance that activates your immune system, as if you have the actual infection you are hoping to prevent, leaving you in fact protected from having that infection.
    • Efficacy– the percentage of people immunized with a particular vaccine who will not get infected if exposed to the target infection.  For example, a COVID-19 vaccine will be said to be 95% effective if 95% of people immunized with that particular COVID-19 vaccine will not get COVID-19 if exposed to COVID-19
    • mRNA– DNA works by dictating exactly which proteins your cell will make.  The message on how to construct each protein is delivered to the cell machinery that makes proteins by a piece of genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA
    • mRNA vaccine– an mRNA vaccine places a small bit of mRNA code that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected
    • Viral vector vaccine– a viral vector vaccine takes a harmless virus that is known to infect people reliably and places that weakened virus in a person where that virus will in fact infect the person.  The virus is not only weakened, but also attached to a set of genes  that makes your cells make a protein that is the protein from a virus that alerts your immune system and activates it to make protections against you being infected.

Urgent Update on the COVID Vaccine and Clots- They Remain Very, Very Safe

This morning we all woke up to the news that the FDA was putting use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine on hold.   This is upsetting news for at least two reasons:

  1. It raises the question on whether COVID vaccine cause harm, like clots?
  2. It will slow our progress to ending the epidemic of death we all face from COVID if it slows vaccination, our only path out of the devastation.

Does the Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine Cause Clots?

As of right now, we have no evidence proving that it does.

Here is what we do know:

  1. In the study trials for this vaccine, the placebo group and the vaccine group developed, very rarely, clots.  This is a very important fact.  We know that in any large group of people, some will develop clots, clots happen, they happened before any vaccines were invented, and they will continue happening after they are used.   The fact that the same percentage of people developed clots in the placebo and vaccine groups is strong evidence that you can get the J&J vaccine, or not get it, and your risk of clots will not change.
  2. After about 7 million doses of the J&J vaccine were given to Americans, 6 developed clots.
  3. That puts the risk at about 1 in a million people, which may be a similar risk seen in those not getting any vaccine.
  4. As of right now, none of the 6 people who developed a clot after their J&J vaccine are known to have developed the clot because of the vaccine.  The FDA paused use of this vaccine to give time for that to be determined.
  5. Of the 6 who developed a clot, one has died, and one is in critical condition and four are fine.

What Does this All Mean?

There are several points to keep in mind going forward:

  1. This news has nothing to do with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines which have been given to hundreds of millions of people with no increase in clots found.  So these vaccines remain very safe and free of worry.
  2. We may find the Johnson & Johnson vaccine did not cause these 6 clots, in which case I would feel very safe getting it.
  3. We may find the J&J vaccine did play a role in these clots, in which case the FDA will permanently suspend its use.
  4. Even if it did cause clots in 1 in 1 million people, if you got the J&J vaccine and did not develop a clot in the following week or two, chances are overwhelming that you will  not now.

Bottom Lines

  1. question is now raised on whether the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine might cause clots.  It will not be given until we can prove it does not.
  2. If you had this vaccine, and you are fine 1-2 weeks subsequently, you will remain fine.
  3. THIS FINDING HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PFIZER AND MODERNA COVID VACCINE, THEY HAVE NO KNOWN CONNECTION TO CLOTS, AND REMAIN FANTASTICALLY SAFE.
  4. We also hope that the J&J vaccine will be cleared of concern, but await the facts

My Takeaways:

  • The gravest urgency remains getting infected with the virus.
  • It is raging with the UK variant putting children at risk, right now.
  • Our only way to save lives, thousands of lives, is to continue to vaccinate-
    • Urgently
    • Now
    • Everyone
  • There will be news items on vaccines, science did a great job detecting a one in a million event and is investigating and will respond accurately.
  • Nothing in this news changes the urgency of everyone getting vaccinated, so many lives depend on it.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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