Health authorities are investigating the case of a South Florida doctor who died from a rare condition two weeks after receiving the first dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.
Dr. Gregory Michael, who had worked as an OBGYN at Mt. Sinai Medical Center for more than a decade, died on January 3rd. According to his wife Heidi Neckelmann, he had been vaccinated on December 18th.
Though there is currently no medical or scientific evidence to suggest that Dr. Michael’s death was triggered by the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting a routine investigation into the incident due to the short timeline between the two events.
“CDC, FDA, and other federal agencies review COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring data regularly and present this information to a work group of vaccine safety experts,” the organization said in a statement. “CDC will evaluate the situation as more information becomes available and provide timely updates on what is known and any necessary actions.”
Neckelmann said that Dr. Michael had begun experiencing strange symptoms several days after receiving the dose, including small spots on his hands and feet.
He was eventually admitted to the ICU with a diagnosis of acute Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare condition in which the body’s immune system mistakingly attacks cell fragments found in the blood known as platelets. In adults, it can be chronic.
”Two days before a last resort surgery, he got a hemorrhagic stroke caused by the lack of platelets that took his life in a matter of minutes,” Neckelmann wrote in a Facebook post.
Pfizer said the company was aware of the CDC’s investigation into the case, releasing a statement saying in part that officials are “actively investigating, but we don’t believe at this time that there I any direct connection to the vaccine.”
“There have been no related safety signals identified in our clinical trials, the post-marketing experience thus far or with the mRNA vaccine platform. To date, millions of people have been vaccinated and we are closely monitoring all adverse events in individuals receiving our vaccine.”
“It is important to note that serious adverse events, including deaths that are unrelated to the vaccine are unfortunately likely to occur at a similar rate as they would in the general population,” the company added.
According to Susan Wagner of the NBC News medical unit, ITP is a condition that can be genetic, but can also be triggered by certain medications. It was included in the list of medical conditions that scientists were watching for during Pfizer’s clinical trials, and no instances emerged in the vaccine group.
The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner said that Dr. Michael’s case is pending under investigation. “We do not have the cause and manner of death declared as of yet," a spokesperson said.
Neckelmenn remains suspicious that the vaccine had something to do with her husband’s death. “He was a pro-vaccine advocate, that is why he got it himself,” she said.
“I believe that people should be aware that side effects can happen, that it is not good for everyone and in this case, destroyed a beautiful life, a perfect family, and has affected so many people in the community,” she added.
A study by the Institute for Vaccine Safety found that vaccines prevent many more cases of ITP than they cause, though the coronavirus vaccine had not been developed at the time the research was published.
Mount Sinai Medical Center said in a statement that due to patient privacy laws and HIPAA guidelines, it could not confirm or deny the details of the case.
“To the extent that we are aware of an incident involving any patient, the appropriate agencies are contacted immediately and have our full cooperation,” the statement read.
The Florida Department of Health also said that it was cooperating with the CDC and providing them all the necessary data for the investigation.