COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- In light of recent stories like the Colorado Springs woman whose severe reaction helped prompt a CDC pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, health officials are reminding the public that the risk of serious vaccine side effects is still very low.
Kendra Lippy nearly died after receiving a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine earlier this year. The Colorado Springs woman spent 22 days in a coma in the ICU. She now faces permanent health effects and a mountain of medical debt.
Her story prompted many of you to send in your concerns about lasting vaccine side effects. Many sent in stories of having a stroke, blood clots, or hearing loss around the time they also got the vaccine. El Paso County Public Health Director Dr. Robin Johnson cautioned the public against drawing the conclusion that the medical event and the vaccine were related.
"I think that the most important thing to recognize is that because something is temporally related, does not mean that it's causal, right? So, we have to be really careful not to attribute things just because they happened in the same timeframe," Dr. Johnson said.
Although, she emphasized that it's important to keep your doctor updated if you notice a strange medical event that could be related.
Doctors are required by law to report that type of information to a program called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). That program compiles information like the reaction, medications the patient is taking, and pre-existing conditions. That information is sent to be monitored by the CDC and other experts. From there, officials will keep an eye on the data and look for anything that's trending.
If they find something concerning enough, they will issue a pause on that type of vaccine until they can get more information. This happened with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine back in April. Lippy and five other women suffered severe blood clots after getting the shot. The CDC now issues a warning that there's a risk of clotting if you take the one-dose vaccine.
The data from the program is public record, meaning you can scroll through the list of reactions state by state. Most of the reactions in Colorado are less severe -- things like redness or soreness around the injection site. More severe reactions typically come with an explanation as well. For instance, one Coloradan suffered a seizure in the hours following the shot, but it shows that the patient also has epilepsy.
As stories of severe reactions continue to surface, Dr. Johnson is urging people to keep the numbers in perspective. Anecdotal evidence of severe reactions can be more convincing than statistics and data, but it can paint an inaccurate picture of your actual risk.
"Those are truly one in a million and we know that the risk from the virus itself is significantly higher and has long-term consequences, as well as fatality," Dr. Johnson said in comparison to the risk from the vaccine.
If you're still hesitant to get the vaccine because you're worried about potential side effects, Dr. Johnson encourages you to reach out to your doctor to get an accurate idea of the risk you face.