Doctors say women not more likely than men to have side effects after COVID-19 vaccine

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The six reported cases of rare blood clots following the Johnson & Johnson vaccine all occurred in younger women ages 18 to 48, so are women more prone to adverse side effects after a COVID-19 vaccine? Doctors don’t think so.

While the rare blood clots only happened in women so far, doctors say mild side effects like sore arm, fatigue and fever after COVID-19 vaccines seem to be equally distributed between women and men.

“So far, to my knowledge, we haven’t seen a difference,” said Dr. Patricia Heywood, women’s health medical director at Ascension Medical Group.

While mild side effects are affecting both men and women after COVID-19 vaccines, doctors say federal health officials made the right move by specifically investigating Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

“When you see specific types of outcomes like this, it’s good to be cautious and take a step back and see if there’s any relation,” Dr. Heywood adds.

“Just to see, is there a signal and is there a safer group of people to use this vaccine in?” said Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator at UW Health’s AstraZeneca Clinical Trial.

Dr. Hartman says the rare blood clots were also found in both women and men after AstraZeneca’s vaccine distribution in Europe. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are both adenovirus vaccines.

“While they’re predominantly in women, there have also been several in men,” Dr. Hartman said of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Europe.

Doctors worry the blood clots following Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will cause hesitancy in women, but say it’s okay to be cautious.

“I think it’s reasonable, since we just don’t know very much about these vaccines at this point, to take a step back and see what it means,” Dr. Heywood says.

“I do worry that there will be some hesitancy that arises from this,” said Dr. Hartman. “Each of these was a young woman, and so that is something that definitely has to be investigated and looked into.”

Dr. Heywood says there’s also no indication any COVID-19 vaccines would interfere with fertility or pregnancy, a common concern seen among women.

“Recommending that ladies talk to their doctors about it, but right now, data that we have suggest that it’s safe,” she adds.

Dr. Hartman says the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have not been tied to any clotting issues, and still want to remind people the cases seen after Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are rare.

“These clots are extremely rare—and even among women who’ve received the vaccine, it’s still exceedingly rare,” he says.

“The two-dose vaccines you know, have not shown to cause that sort of issue, so you know, I would still think it’s an important thing to do,” Dr. Heywood said.

Doctors say if you are having doubts about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to get your questions answered by a health care provider so you don’t go into it with apprehension.

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