A Florida doctor died about two weeks after he received a COVID-19 vaccine, and investigations have been launched to determine whether the shot had any role in the man's death.
Dr. Gregory Michael, a 56-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, passed away on Jan. 3. Michael received the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 18, but then experienced a "strong reaction" only days later, according to his wife, Heidi Neckelmann.
Michael reportedly suffered from a severe lack of platelets, and doctors from around the country allegedly attempted to raise his platelet count to "no avail." Because of his medical condition, Michael purportedly suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke and died in a "matter of minutes," according to his wife.
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy on Tuesday, and has not ruled out a possible connection to the COVID-19 vaccine.
"The cause of death is pending the completion of studies being done by the medical examiner and the Centers for Disease Control," Darren Caprara, director of operations at the county office, told the Miami Herald. "The case is still under investigation, so nothing has been finalized."
Caprara said the doctor's cause of death would be released after the medical examiner completes its investigation in partnership with other agencies.
A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the agency is "aware of a reported death in Florida of an individual who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine about two weeks before passing away."
"CDC will evaluate the situation as more information becomes available and provide timely updates on what is known and any necessary actions," the CDC spokesperson said. "It's been a difficult year as each of us grapple with a worldwide pandemic. Use of COVID-19 vaccines is the next step in our efforts to protect Americans and reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Pfizer released a statement on the death, "Pfizer and BioNTech are aware of the death of a healthcare professional sixteen days after receiving a first dose" of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"It is a highly unusual clinical case of severe thrombocytopenia, a condition that decreases the body's ability to clot blood and stop internal bleeding," the pharmaceutical company noted. "We are actively investigating this case, but we don't believe at this time that there is any direct connection to the vaccine."
The Mayo Clinic defines Thrombocytopenia as a "condition in which you have a low blood platelet count," where "the number of platelets can be so low that dangerous internal bleeding occurs." Thrombocytopenia "might occur as a result of a bone marrow disorder such as leukemia or an immune system problem. Or it can be a side effect of taking certain medications."
Pfizer stated, "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," Pfizer continued. "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."
According to Bloomberg's COVID-19 vaccine tracker, 6.25 million doses have been administered in the United States since vaccinations began on Dec. 14. There have been 17.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines administered in 38 countries.
Mount Sinai Medical Center released a statement declaring that the "appropriate agencies are contacted immediately and have our full cooperation." The hospital said it "cannot confirm or deny information about any patient" due to medical privacy laws.
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office, the Florida Department of Health, the CDC, and Pfizer are all investigating Michael's death.
"The CDC and FDA are responsible for reviewing COVID-19 vaccine safety data and presenting that information for federal recommendations on vaccine administration," Jason Mahon, Communications Director at Florida Division of Emergency Management, told USA Today. "The state will continue to provide all available information to the CDC as they lead this investigation."
The Facebook account reported to belong to the wife of the doctor said her "very healthy" husband was "a pro vaccine advocate that is why he got it himself." The post added, "I believe that people should be aware that side effects can happened, 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. Do not let his death be in vain please save more lives by making this information news."
Michael leaves behind his wife and a daughter.