Pfizer Inc. and federal health officials are investigating the death of a health care worker 16 days after the person received the first dose of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.
So far, the evidence doesn’t suggest a connection, Pfizer said in a statement on Tuesday. The Florida-based physician developed a rare disorder called severe thrombocytopenia that decreases the body’s ability to clot blood and stop internal bleeding.
Pfizer cited its clinical trials and data gathered since the vaccine was authorized in the U.S. in reporting its initial conclusion that the evidence doesn’t suggest a causal association to the shot it developed with Germany’s BioNTech SE. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is aware of the death and “will evaluate the situation as more information becomes available,” according to spokesman Tom Skinner.
“To date, millions of people have been vaccinated and we are closely monitoring all adverse events in individuals receiving our vaccine,” Pfizer said in its statement. “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 New York Times first reported news of the death of Gregory Michael, a 56-year-old obstetrician and gynecologist located in Miami Beach. The Times cited a Facebook post written on Jan. 5 by his wife, Heidi Neckelmann, who said Michael had died from a brain hemorrhage.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for emergency use in the U.S. on Dec. 14, with health care workers and those in long-term care facilities the first in line to get the shot. Thus far, 9.27 million shots have been administered of this vaccine and a second authorized vaccine developed by Moderna Inc., according to a state-by-state tally by Bloomberg and data from the CDC.
The CDC, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies, regularly review COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring data and share their findings with a group of vaccine safety experts, who provide independent guidance to the federal officials, according to the CDC’s Skinner.
“Our thoughts are with the family during this heartbreaking time,” Skinner said.