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King County woman dies of very rare blood-clotting side effect from Johnson & Johnson vaccine

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 5, 2021

A member of the Philadelphia Fire Department prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site setup March 26 in Philadelphia. A Washington woman has died from a very rare side effect of the shot, health officials announced this week.  (Matt Rourke)
A member of the Philadelphia Fire Department prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site setup March 26 in Philadelphia. A Washington woman has died from a very rare side effect of the shot, health officials announced this week. (Matt Rourke)

A King County woman in her late 30s has died from a very rare side effect of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

“Sadly, this is the first such death in Washington state,” Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones.”

Of the more than 14.8 million U.S. residents who have received the J&J vaccine, four people have died from a very rare form of blood clotting in combination with low platelet levels, called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC verified that the King County woman who died was vaccinated on Aug. 26 with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and died on Sept. 7, and her cause of death has been determined as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).

In April, the CDC paused administration of the J&J vaccine after blood-clotting was noted in a handful of cases associated with the single-dose vaccine.

Following an examination of these cases, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration lifted the pause on the J&J vaccine, deciding that the benefits of vaccination far outweighed the risk.

As of July 8, the CDC had verified 38 cases of TTS following the J&J vaccine. Women ages 18 to 49 are at higher risk for this side effect.

The risk of thrombosis remains very low, and a CDC analysis found that for every 1 million J&J vaccine doses administered to women ages 18 to 49, seven TTS cases could be expected, while 297 COVID hospitalizations and six COVID deaths could be prevented.

Out of 12.5 million doses of the J&J vaccine administered as of July 8, 38 people have had confirmed cases of TTS, according to the CDC, and the majority of these people have recovered.

Symptoms of thrombosis after receiving the J&J vaccine include a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg swelling, nausea or shortness of breath from a week to two weeks after vaccination.

If you are experiencing these side effects following vaccination, health officials ask you to contact your health care provider or an urgent care center.

Neither of the mRNA vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, have been associated with blood clotting, and the vaccines remain the most effective way to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19, health officials said.

Unvaccinated Washington residents are more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than fully vaccinated residents. In 12- to 34-year-olds, unvaccinated residents are 26 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, and in 35- to 64-year-olds, unvaccinated residents are 20 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus.

Here’s a look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 329 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death on Tuesday.

There have been 853 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 187 COVID patients hospitalized in Spokane .

The Panhandle Health District reported 243 new COVID-19 cases and an approximate backlog of 1,949 cases.

There are 146 Panhandle residents hospitalized. Kootenai Health is treating a record high number of COVID patients, with 145 COVID inpatients, including 42 in critical care and four pediatric patients.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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