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COVID-19 Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Concerns: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?

The world has been fighting COVID-19 for over a year. Mask mandates and social distancing are now a part of our everyday lives. When vaccines were created to help fight the virus, companies were quick to ship them out. Over 114 million people have been vaccinated in the United States which is over 34% of the population. More than 1.3 billion vaccines have been administered worldwide. Despite these statistics, many people are still wary. 


Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are the three vaccines that are recommended by the CDC and authorized by the FDA. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was the first to be pulled from the markets for a short period of time in the United States.


The reason the vaccine was pulled from the markets was due to reports of blood-clotting disorders. The blood clots began emerging primarily in women, all of whom had taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. According to CNN, “there have been a total of 17 incidents of severe blood clotting while also experiencing low blood platelet levels” which were “rapidly detected by the U.S. vaccine safety monitoring system.”


In Nevada, 18-year-old Emma Burkey now suffers from seizures and has undergone three brain surgeries after developing blood clots that have now been linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Bret Johnson, the Burkey family’s spokesman, told The Associated Press that, “Emma Burkey began feeling sick about a week after receiving the one-dose vaccine” and is “improving slowly.”


According to Forbes Magazine, Denmark's Health Authority has rejected the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of the risks that have surfaced regarding the vaccine despite the European Medicines Agency determining that the “benefits of the vaccine outweigh the possible risks.” 


The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not the only COVID-19 vaccine that has raised major concerns. AstraZeneca, like Johnson & Johnson, is being closely monitored due to reports of vaccine-linked blood clots. The AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used all around the world. Many countries, however, have placed restrictions such as limiting the age groups that can receive the vaccine. 


The reason the United States does not use the AstraZeneca vaccine is since it has not been authorized by the FDA. According to NBC News, the “Food and Drug Administration has asked AstraZeneca for a large amount of extra data related to its Covid-19 vaccine.”  


In Quebec, Dr. Horacio Arruda, Public Health Director, confirmed Quebec’s first AstraZeneca-linked death. According to CBC News, the woman’s death was caused by “a vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).” Even though VITT is rare, it is still more severe than a regular blood clot. VITT can cause cerebral thrombosis. Cerebral thrombosis or CVT is a blood clot of the cerebral vein. If blood begins to collect in this vein, it will leak into brain tissues and cause a hemorrhage or severe swelling in the brain.


Both she and her husband received the vaccine on April 9, yet he did not experience any complications. ”This is an event that is rare. We knew that it might happen,” Dr. Arruda stated.


The woman was identified by her family as Francine Boyer. A statement released about Ms. Boyer explains that she had “experienced extreme fatigue along with headaches.” Ms. Boyer “went to the nearest hospital, then, as her condition deteriorated, she was transferred to the Montreal Neurological Hospital Institute.” Francine died of cerebral thrombosis.


NBC spoke to Dr. Buddy Creech, director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Creech told NBC that “when there are unusual side effects that are occurring, there may be even greater detail that a review committee is going to ask for so that they can render a good judgment.” 


"The FDA is under a lot of pressure to get things right," said Dr. Creech.


COVID-19 vaccines have become crucial in the journey back to normalization. Many people across the world are in need of vaccines. However, these past few weeks have raised a lot of questions and concerns regarding the safety of certain vaccines, leaving many people to decide whether the benefits really do outweigh the risks.