An X-ray technologist from Orange, California, fell ill and was taken to an emergency room just a few hours after receiving his second dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month — and four days later he was dead, the Orange County Register reported.
What are the details?
Tim Zook, 60, seemed quite hopeful in a Jan. 5 Facebook post, the Register said.
"Never been so excited to get a shot before," Zook wrote above a photo of a Band-Aid on his arm and his COVID-19 vaccination card, the paper reported. "I am now fully vaccinated after receiving my 2nd Pfizer dose."
It would turn out to be his final Facebook post.
Just a few hours later, Zook — an X-ray technologist at South Coast Global Medical Center in Santa Ana — had an upset stomach and trouble breathing, the Register said. By 3:30 p.m. his condition worsened so much that his co-workers walked him to the emergency room, the paper added.
"Should I be worried?" his wife, Rochelle, texted him when after receiving the news, the Register said.
"No, absolutely not," Zook texted back, the paper noted.
"Do you think this is a direct result of the vaccine?" she texted, the Register noted.
"No, no," he replied, according to the paper. "I'm not sure what. But don't worry."
The Register said Zook "passionately urged folks to embrace COVID precautions such as masking up and staying home as ICUs were inundated in December."
But Zook's condition quickly worsened.
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There were suspicions of COVID and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Zook was put on oxygen, then — just four hours later — a BiPAP machine to help push air into the lungs. Multiple tests came back negative for COVID.
Shortly after midnight on Jan. 7, the hospital called. Zook was in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator to help him breathe. But his blood pressure soon dropped and he was transferred to UC Irvine Medical Center. "On Friday I get a call, 'His kidneys are failing. He needs to be on dialysis. If not, he could die — but there's also a chance he might have a heart attack or stroke on dialysis because his blood pressure is so low,' " Rochelle Zook said.
By 4 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, Zook had gone "code blue" twice and was snatched back from the brink of death. There was a third code blue in the afternoon. "They said if he went code blue a fourth time, he'd have brain damage and be a vegetable if he survives," Rochelle Zook said.
Zook died later that day, the paper said.
'We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company'
"We are not blaming any pharmaceutical company," Rochelle Zook told the Register. "My husband loved what he did. He worked in hospitals for 36 1/2 years. He believed in vaccines. I'm sure he would take that vaccine again, and he'd want the public to take it. But when someone gets symptoms 2 1/2 hours after a vaccine, that's a reaction. What else could have happened? We would like the public to know what happened to Tim, so he didn't die in vain. Severe reactions are rare. In reality, COVID is a much more deadly force than reactions from the potential vaccine itself. The message is, be safe, take the vaccine — but the officials need to do more research. We need to know the cause. The vaccines need to be as safe as possible. Every life matters."
Zook's widow also told the paper he had high blood pressure, but that for years it had been controlled with medication. Zook was slightly overweight but healthy, the Register added.
"He had never been hospitalized," Rochelle Zook told the paper. "He'd get a cold and be over it two days later. The flu, and be over it three days later."
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His death has been reported to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, run by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control. The Orange County coroner has said the cause of death is inconclusive for now, and further toxicology testing will take months.
"The family just wants closure," said Zook's cousin, Ken Polanco of Los Angeles. " 'Inconclusive' is not closure. The family wants the pharmaceutical companies to do more research — if there's some sort of DNA that doesn't work with this vaccine, if episodes like this can be prevented, they need to do what they can to pin that down." [...]
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — which officials caution is a "passive surveillance system" and represents unverified reports of health events that occur after vaccination — has gathered more than 130 reports of death after vaccine administration thus far in 2021. A total of 1,330 adverse reactions have been reported, while more than 23.5 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered.
Experts caution that drawing a causal line between vaccination and death is often very difficult to do. When millions of people are being vaccinated — more than 13 million have gotten the Pfizer vaccine as of Jan. 26, and more than 10.5 million have received the Moderna vaccine — some would die for any number of unrelated reasons, as a matter of pure statistics.
What did Pfizer have to say?
A Pfizer-BioNTech spokesman told the paper that pharmaceutical company is aware of Zook's death and is thoroughly reviewing the matter.
"Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved family," the company said in an emailed statement, the Register reported. "We closely monitor all such events and collect relevant information to share with global regulatory authorities. Based on ongoing safety reviews performed by Pfizer, BioNTech and health authorities, [the vaccine] retains a positive benefit-risk profile for the prevention of COVID-19 infections. 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 Orange County coroner said it has an open death investigation for Zook and will be conducting more tests as part of its autopsy protocol, spokeswoman Carrie Braun told the paper, adding that the coroner's office will use its findings to issue a final determination concerning the cause and manner of death.
"If it's determined there may be a correlation to the vaccine, we will immediately notify the OC Health Care Agency," Braun added to the Register.