A Florida doctor has died several weeks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, although it’s not yet clear whether his death Monday was related to the shot he received on Dec. 18.
Dr. Gregory Michael, 56, an OB-GYN at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, died after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke apparently resulting from a lack of platelets.
Miami medical examiners are investigating his death, the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.
“The CDC and FDA are responsible for reviewing COVID-19 vaccine safety data and presenting that information for federal recommendations on vaccine administration,” communications director Jason Mahon said in an email. “The state will continue to provide all available information to the CDC as they lead this investigation.”
In a Facebook post, Michael’s wife, Heidi Neckelmann, said he sought emergency care three days after the shot because he had dots on his skin that indicated internal bleeding.
The condition she said led to his stroke, called thrombocytopenia, results from a lower-than-normal number of platelets, which help the blood clot.
In extremely rare cases, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has been linked to thrombocytopenia in young children, according to a 2003 study. The condition can also be caused by cancer, anemia, heavy drinking, viruses, some genetic conditions, toxic chemicals and medications such as diuretics and the rarely used antibiotic chloramphenicol.
Pfizer, which along with its partner BioNTech made the vaccine the man received, said in a statement it is aware of the death.
“We are actively investigating this case, but we don’t believe at this time that there is any direct connection to the vaccine,” the statement said.
There is no indication – either from large clinical trials or among people who have received the vaccine since the government authorized its use last month – that it could be connected to thrombocytopenia, the company said.
COVID-19 vaccine makers are required by the government to monitor health problems that occur close in time to vaccination and investigate whether they are likely to be connected to a shot.
“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 the statement, which ended by saying: “Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved family.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement late Wednesday that it and other federal agencies regularly review vaccine safety data, as does an independent committee of vaccine safety experts.
“It’s been a difficult year as each of us grapple with a worldwide pandemic,” the statement reads.
Five million people have already been vaccinated against COVID-19. “Use of COVID-19 vaccines is the next step in our efforts to protect Americans and reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
In her Facebook post, Neckelmann described Michael as the “love of her life,” and blamed his death on the vaccine.
“He was a very healthy 56-year-old, loved by everyone in the community, delivered hundreds of healthy babies and worked tireless through the pandemic,” she said in the post, which had received more than 1,400 comments as of 8 p.m. Wednesday.
She said a team of doctors from across the country tried for two weeks to raise his platelet count “to no avail.” He was conscious until suffering a hemorrhagic stroke “that took his life in a matter of minutes,” she wrote.
Michael was a vaccine advocate, his wife said, before raising doubts about its safety.
“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,” she wrote. “Do not let his death be in vain please save more lives by making this information news.”
According to his professional website, Michael was a Miami native who practiced at Mount Sinai for 12 years.
After college, he lived in Japan for several years, traveling extensively and learning the language. He also was fluent in Spanish.
Michael went to medical school at St. George’s University in Grenada and completed his OB-GYN residency at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey.
He and his wife have one daughter, and he was an avid tournament and big game fisherman as well as a rescue-certified scuba diver.
Elizabeth Weise contributed to this report.
Contact Karen Weintraub at firstname.lastname@example.org
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Death of Florida doctor following COVID-19 vaccine under investigation