Triangle doctors say putting risk in perspective can ease anxiety for J&J vaccine recipients

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Learning about rare blood clots in six Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients raised some concern for Jodi Kandl and Thomas Wortman, who both recently received the vaccine.

“I was a little nervous to be quite honest with you,” said Kandl.

“I just have to wait for the next three weeks, monitor how I feel,” added Wortman.

Doctors say chances of developing the rare condition are extremely slim — less than one in a million. Still, feeling nervous is normal, and putting your risk in perspective can ease anxiety.

“It’s less than the risk of fatalities of actually going out and driving in a year or swimming, and those are things we really don’t think that much about,” explained Dr. Bradley Gaynes, professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Even though blood clots are extremely rare, doctors urge people pay attention to unusual symptoms that start several days to two or three weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“If you are thinking, ‘This is not a normal headache; this is more severe than normal headache. I don’t normally have this condition,’ then get checked out,” said Dr. Graham Snyder, director of education for Wake Emergency Physicians.

If doctors are then concerned, hospitals will likely check for clots and look at platelet levels.

“The key is recognizing that if it’s associated with a low platelet count you need to treat it differently, and you need to make sure that you treat it quickly,” added Duke’s chief hematologist Dr. Thomas Ortel.

Doctors expect we could see a lot of people getting checked out.

Dr. Nigel Key, director of the UNC Blood Research Center noted that happened after concerns with the Astrazeneca vaccine in other countries.

“This became an issue in the UK a few weeks ago with people crowding out emergency rooms concerned about the side effects and that they may be having an event,” he said. “The vast majority of course are not — this is extremely, extremely rare.”

Even though they’re a little nervous, Kandl and Wortman both say they made the right choice.

“Despite the pause in the vaccine administration, I’m still glad I got it,” said Wortman.

“I work with a special-needs population,” added Kandl. “I would do it again.”

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