Washtenaw County woman’s death attributed to rare complication from Johnson & Johnson vaccine, report says

Family says Sandra Jacobs got J&J vaccine before it was temporarily suspended

Michigan woman's death attributed to rare complication from Johnson & Johnson vaccine

WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. – It’s a staggering number to consider -- More than 700,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

While vaccines have been overwhelmingly successful at protecting people from contracting the virus, in rare cases, there have been documented illnesses and even deaths.

In April, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was temporarily suspended after reports of blood clots. During that time, a Washtenaw County woman died after getting the single dose. A postmortem examination determined the woman died from complications of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Sandra Jacobs’ didn’t want to get vaccinated but ultimately decided to because she had to travel for work.

A 14-page autopsy report written by Dr. Caplan from Michigan Medicine lists the cause of death as a complication of the vaccine.

“This is proof that it can happen,” said Jacob’s daughter, Tatum Strieter-Byron.

Strieter-Byron said the postmortem report validates what she’s known for months.

“Most people, they don’t want to believe that somebody could have died from the vaccine. That’s why I wanted a report,” she said.

Jacobs, a 60-year-old Washtenaw County grandmother, died less than two weeks after getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“All of us could probably name at least one person who passed from COVID, and so that reaction is, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.’ However, when you say that my mom died from the vaccine, the reaction is not the same. It’s it’s definitely met with a lot of skepticism,” Strieter-Byron said.

Jacobs started having headaches, nausea and chest pain shortly after getting the single-dose shot. Her doctor advised over-the-counter pain medicine.

When she didn’t show up for work or log on remotely, a concerned friend found her body inside her home.

“Personally I have a lot of ‘God, I wish she would have waited,’” Strieter-Byron said. “It was pulled off the market five days after she got it and she died two days before it went back on the market. So for me, it’s almost like adding insult to injury at that point.”

In April, federal health officials temporarily paused the J&J vaccine after several patients developed a rare blood clotting disorder.

As of Oct. 22, more than 15 million Americans have gotten the J&J vaccine. There are believed to be five confirmed deaths, including Jacobs.

The pathologist ruled her death as natural, adding that “since this is a known yet rare complication of the vaccine, it may also be considered a therapeutic complication.”

“I know she would want her story heard. I know that if she could help not to sway people one way or the other but if she could help people by sharing her experience, she would because that’s the type of person she was,” Strieter-Byron said.

Strieter-Byron said she misses the little things the most.

“If you have a question about something, you call your mom. But I don’t, I can’t call my mom,” she said. “A loss is a loss. So, if somebody dies from COVID, it’s equally as bad as somebody who dies from a vaccine. So just to try to remember their human side because I don’t know that a lot of people are still doing that.”

Jacobs did have some underlying health issues including multiple sclerosis, heart disease and obesity.

Johnson & Johnson released the following statement:

“The safety and well-being of every individual who receives a Johnson & Johnson product remains our top priority. Any adverse event report about individuals receiving Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, as well as our own assessment of the report, is shared with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Medicines Agency, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other appropriate health authorities where our vaccine is authorized.”

Johnson & Johnson

Read: COVID vaccine: CDC expands booster rollout, OKs mixing shots

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About the Author:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism