VACCINE TEAM | Q&A on blood clots with other vaccines, why keep wearing masks

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 4:40 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - As we continue to watch vaccines roll out across Kentucky, we are here to answer your questions.

What is different about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine compared to the Pfizer and Moderna ones? How do I know the others won’t cause blood clots?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a vector vaccine while the other two approved for use in the U.S. are mRNA vaccines.

While the goal of protecting someone from COVID-19 is the same, the two types of vaccines are made and work differently. Here is information from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Vector vaccines contain a modified version of a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19. Inside the shell of the modified virus, there is material from the virus that causes COVID-19. This is called a “viral vector.” Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.
  • mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.

The U.S. paused J&J vaccinations earlier this week to investigate the clotting link.

While the CDC says to date its received no reports of these rare blood clots in people who received either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Oxford University researchers say they believe they occur at a rate of four in a million.

The Oxford study’s main finding shows the risk is 8 to 10 times higher after COVID-19 infection than from vaccines.

“The importance of this finding is it brings it back to the fact that this is a horrible illness, that has a whole variety of effects including increased risk of CVT and PVT in this group,” said Prof. John Geddes, head of Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford.

After you get second shot, do you still need wear mask beyond the two weeks following your vaccination?

While the vaccines can prevent serious illness, it’s still not known if vaccinated people can pick up the virus and spread it to others.

Once fully vaccinated, the latest CDC advice is you can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.

“There is no situation in which there is no risk. So it recognizes a range of risks,” says Dr. Gregory Poland from the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group. “And it is the CDC’s first step toward normalcy by balancing the value of social interaction and family interaction that many of us have not been engaging in because of the science-based recommendations, and trying to decrease social isolation.”

Since February 2, the federal governor mandated that masks be worn on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Despite legal challenges, Kentucky’s mask mandate is still legal and in effect.

When are home bound people going to be able to get the COVID-19 shot? My 95-year-old mother wants to get it, but she can’t get out to the clinics for various medical reasons.

It’s still a challenge and the pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes it even more challenging. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services hoped the single-dose J&J vaccine might speed things along.

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines require careful handling and should not be transported once the vials are pierced. Each vial contains multiple vaccine doses, so that instability makes single doses in individual households a problem.

The Johnson & Johnson is an adenovirus-based vaccine and is less delicate than the other approved vaccine, making it more mobile. It also has fewer storage and transportation requirements, which the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says could make it a good option in the future for those like your mother.

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