A woman in her late 30s died of rare blood clotting almost two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine for Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 in Washington, according to state health officials.
The woman is the first confirmed death in King County and the fourth person to have died nationwide of the nearly 15 million people who have received the J&J injection since it became available in the United States
“We at Public Health are saddened by this loss and express our condolences to the woman’s family and loved ones,” the county health department said in a statement released Tuesday. “As with many drugs, the risk of serious adverse events is small, but not zero. It is important that people have this information to make their own informed decisions. “
The woman was vaccinated on August 26th and died on September 7th. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that her cause of death was thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).
The condition, which mainly affects women aged 18 to 49, remains a rarity after vaccination with the J&J vaccine. According to the CDC, after the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, only two reports of TTS were reported of 346 million shots administered in the U.S. as of Aug. 18. Still, those who received the Moderna or Pfizer coronavirus vaccines are not at increased risk of developing the disease.
Initial reports of the blood clots after vaccination with the J&J shot caused federal health officials to suspend use of the vaccine in April, which lasted about two weeks as special committees discussed the handful of cases at the time. In the end, experts found that the benefits of the single-dose shot outweighed potential risks.
Of the 12.5 million people who received the J&J vaccine as of July 8, a total of 38 people had developed TTS, the King County Health Department said, the majority of whom have recovered.
The CDC conducted an “individual-level risk-benefit analysis” in April and found that for every 1 million doses of the J&J vaccine given to the highest risk group – women under 50 years of age – approximately 297 hospitalizations, 56 admissions to the intensive care unit and six coronavirus-related deaths could be prevented. That compares to seven TTS cases that are expected to develop in this group.
Experts say your risk of developing a blood clot while you have COVID-19 is higher than your chances of developing one after vaccination.
Almost 20% of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit develop blood clots, said Dr. Hyung Chun, a cardiologist at Yale Medicine in Connecticut. The coronavirus is known to encourage blood clots to develop by forcing blood vessels and blood to behave in certain ways, Chun said, which could explain why some patients die and suffer from damaged organs.
“Unfortunately, blood clots in those who contracted COVID-19 to be in intensive care were a major contributor to their illness,” Chun said in a Yale post. “[Nearly 20% is] far higher than you would expect from patients in intensive care for other medical conditions. Estimates I’ve seen are in the 3 to 10% range for patients admitted for other reasons. “
The CDC has recorded 8,164 deaths after vaccination with any of the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the US of more than 390 million doses administered as of Sept. 27 – that’s about 0.002% of those vaccinated. However, deaths reported after vaccination “do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem,” the agency said.
In King County, an unvaccinated person’s risk of dying from COVID-19 is 57 times higher than that of a vaccinated person of the same age. The risk of hospitalization for unvaccinated people is 41 times higher.
As of October 5, a total of 1,899 people have died of COVID-19 in King County.