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Rare blood auto immune disorder appearing in very small amount of COVID vaccine recipients

“If we recognize it early, it's treatable. It shouldn't hold us from encouraging them to get the vaccine.”

NEW ORLEANS — The CDC, the FDA, and the makers of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, are looking into reports of a rare blood disorder in a small number of people who got the vaccine.

After more than 31 million people in the U.S. have gotten a COVID vaccine, three dozen cases of a rare blood auto immune disorder, causing one death, have been reported. 

Immune thrombocytopenia, or ITP, causes a lack of platelets, the part of the blood necessary for clotting.

“There are some cases that have predisposing or history of autoimmune disorder, but some cases are occurring in otherwise healthy individuals,” explained Dr. Maissaa Janbain, a Tulane Hematologist and Oncologist who is the Associate Director of the Louisiana Center for Bleeding and Clotting Disorders.

Autoimmune means your own immune system attacks cells that are supposed to be in your body. Dr. Janbain says this condition was not seen in the clinical trials, is extremely rare, and it is still unknown if it's a coincidence or linked to the vaccine.

When asked if the new ITP cases are about equal or fewer than is seen in the normal population, she replied, “I would say they are even less.”

If you are prone to autoimmune conditions vaccines can uncover this. Flu vaccines, and MMR vaccines have exposed this in people in the past, but natural viruses can too. 

So the risk of getting ITP after getting coronavirus in the community is higher than with a vaccine. In fact there have been cases reported after COVID-19.

“If we recognize it early, it's treatable. It shouldn't hold us from encouraging them to get the vaccine.”

Here are the early signs:

  • Pinpoint-sized red dots especially on legs and chest area
  • Bleeding in the mouth, gums, or nose
  • Bruising easily

Report those immediately to your doctor for a blood count.

Now if you already have the rare condition of ITP, the American Society of Hematology recommends this:

“They are still encouraging patients with stable, chronic ITP, or ITP that has been in remission, to get the vaccines,” said Dr. Janbain.

For now, Dr. Janbain wants her blood disorder patients to get the COVID vaccine. She'll just monitor them more closely.

On a separate note, the doctor says people on blood thinners should get the vaccine since getting the COVID infection can cause blood clots.

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