Warning signs to look out for if you got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is being put on pause after rare blood clots were discovered in a handful of people. Now, it begs the question, are people who have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at risk? And what should they look out for?

Doctors say don’t be too overly concerned, because you’re at very low risk.

“Birth control, and certain habits like smoking cigarettes, have a much higher risk than this of leading to the development of blood clots,” said Dr. Ben Weston, associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and medical director of the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

The FDA and CDC are now evaluating six cases out of 6.8 million people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All six cases happened in younger women, between 18 to 48, and fairly quickly, too. The rare blood clots occurring in the brain are known as Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis, or CVST.

“The symptoms occurred within two weeks, or within 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” said Dr. John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“They’re a blood clot in a very specific vessel in the brain,” Dr. Weston says.

If it’s such a low risk, why is the vaccine on pause? Dr. Raymond says it’s the responsible thing to do in order to figure out exactly what’s going on.

“Just because six cases have been reported does not mean that there might not be others,” he says.

“They’re pausing this to better understand, so that they can better communicate the risk profile— even if it is one in a million risk,” Dr. Weston adds.

Doctors say CVST is also associated with low platelet counts, and regular medications for blood clots like blood thinner Heparin may not be a good idea.

“If you give Heparin when there are low platelet counts, you can actually make the problem worse,” Dr. Raymond said.

As of Tuesday, more than 160,000 Wisconsinites have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and the Milwaukee Health Department has administered more than 1,800 doses. Doctors say if you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two weeks ago, you’re likely out of the woods.

“Probably two weeks out you’re fine,” adds Dr. Raymond.

If you’re a younger woman who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within a two-week timeframe, there are symptoms you should look out for.

“Abdominal pain, severe headaches, shortness of breath, leg pain or leg swelling that is new, those are things that you’d want to contact your health care provider about,” Dr. Weston said.

“Again, we’re really talking about this ultra-rare potential side effect,” says Dr. Raymond.

Dr. Weston says 80-percent of people typically recover from CVST without any complications.

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