CDC reviewing Michigan woman’s death after Johnson & Johnson vaccine

CDC reviewing woman's death after Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Annie VanGeest was known as a super mom and a proud wife of 13 years.

She was a master multi-tasker and staunch animal rescue supporter in her community of Saranac in Ionia County.

Her death, though, is making news for reasons other than just her good work in her community.

She received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 8, five days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paused its usage due to reports of rare but serious blood clots in women.

VanGeest’s family said she developed a headache on April 16 -- eight days after her shot. She died three days later on the April 19. Her death certificate notes a natural death, specifically from an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding between the brain and tissue around the brain.

In a statement, her family said the 35-year-old wife and mother of four died “as the result of complications after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.”

But at this point, neither doctors nor the CDC have a way to know that for sure.

VanGeest’s physician filed a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) report to the CDC. The VAERS is a vaccine safety system managed by CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS accepts reports of possible side effects -- also called “adverse events” -- following vaccination.

The system is not designed to determine whether a reported adverse event was caused by the vaccine, but serves as an early warning system and helps CDC and FDA identify areas for further study. When VAERS receives reports of serious illness or death after vaccination, VAERS staff contact the hospital where the patient was treated to obtain the associated medical records to better understand the adverse event.

VanGeest’s death certificate lists subarachnoid hemorrhage as the cause of death. It is not known by Local 4 if there were any associated conditions such as a low platelet count or cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. The combination of the latter two conditions are the reason for the initial pause in the administration of the J&J vaccine. The pause was not caused by a concern over an increased rate of subarachnoid hemorrhage.

When the CDC restarted the J&J vaccine on April 23, it acknowledged there would likely be more cases of the rare blood clots but it believed doctors had a better understanding of how to treat it and it did not discourage anyone from getting it.

Rare blood clot cases

According to national health officials at the time of the pause, there were six U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot forming in people after they received the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine.

Officials said a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis and low levels of blood platelets were seen in these cases.

All six cases occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms began six to 13 days after vaccination, according to authorities.

MORE: Tracking Metro Detroit vaccination changes amid pause of J&J vaccine

Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots, but in these instances, alternate treatments are used because administration of heparin could be dangerous, officials said.

This occurrence is extremely rare -- it was identified in just six people out of the 6.8 million who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those numbers were as of April 12, officials said.

About the Authors:

Jason is Local 4’s utility infielder. In addition to anchoring the morning newscast, he often reports on a variety of stories from the tragic, like the shootings at Michigan State, to the off-beat, like great gas station food.

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.