NIH director says J&J vaccine has lower risk of side effects than aspirin

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Blood-clotting episodes linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are extremely “rare” — and about a “thousand times less likely” than experiencing intestinal bleeding from taking aspirin, the head of the National Institutes of Health said on Sunday.

Dr. Francis Collins said that the blood-clotting issues may sound “scary,” but the COVID-19 shot comes with a lower risk of adverse side effects than the over-the-counter medication.

“All of us who have been taking aspirin for headaches and muscle aches for the last many decades,” Collins told NBC host Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”

“The risk of aspirin inducing a significant intestinal bleed is much higher than what we’re talking about here, something in the neighborhood of one in 500, one in a thousand for people who regularly take aspirin. We’re talking about something here that’s about a thousand times less likely to happen.”

But he added, “we Americans, we’re not that good at this kind of risk calculation.”

“Something sounds scary — somebody has pointed out, you are less likely as a woman taking J&J to have this blood-clotting problem than to get struck by lightning next year,” Collins said.

“So it’s a really low risk, and we do figure out how to do that. We wear our seat belts, right? What are you doing there? You’re trying to prevent a bad outcome if you’re in a car crash. Back when seat belts were first being introduced, people were like, ‘Well, you know, suppose my car goes into a lake and I can’t get unbuckled quickly enough when I drown.’”

Collins, who is Dr. Anthony Fauci’s boss, defended federal health regulators’ decision to resume the use of the COVID-19 shot without restrictions — despite all of the known blood-clotting cases being female recipients, mostly under the age of 50.

“I think that was the right decision. I do think people will want to read the fact sheet,” Collins said, referring to a warning that will be issued along with the vaccine.

“But when you consider the nature of this risk, this is truly a rare event. And when you measure that against the benefits of preventing somebody from dying of Covid, there’s no comparison. We clearly have a situation where the benefits greatly outweigh the risks, even for younger women.”

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