Dr. Gregory Michael, MD, a Miami, FL OB-GYN, died a little over two weeks after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Almost everything that happens after someone gets this new vaccine is under the microscope by just anyone that has an interest in vaccines.
Of course, anti-vaxxers jumped on the bandwagon after reading that Dr. Gregory Michael’s wife stated that he died because of the vaccine. Similar to the story about Tiffany Dover, who fainted soon after being vaccinated because she had a fear of needles and, of course, did not die, the anti-vaccine forces are doing everything they can to discredit the vaccine.
Dr. Michael was one of our brave healthcare workers who delivered babies during a pandemic. He was pro-vaccine, and that’s why he received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Let’s take a close look at what happened to Dr. Michael. Is there a correlation to the COVID-19 vaccine? Did the vaccine cause his death?
What happened to Dr. Gregory Michael
According to news reports, Dr. Gregory MIchael died of immune thrombocytopenia (or immune thrombocytopenic purpura, ITP) about two weeks after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Immune thrombocytopenia is “a disorder characterized by a blood abnormality called thrombocytopenia, which is a shortage of blood cells called platelets that are needed for normal blood clotting.” The initial signs of the disease are characteristic red or purple bruise-like rashes and an increased tendency to bleed.
It is an autoimmune disease that has two distinct clinical syndromes:
- An acute condition in children that usually follows an infection and spontaneously resolves within two months.
- Chronic immune thrombocytopenia usually occurs in adults and persists for longer than six months. The cause of this syndrome is unknown.
His wife has stated publicly that about three days after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Michael noticed the initial signs of ITP of the broken blood vessels on his feet and hands. Being a physician, he knew that it was a serious issue and promptly went to the emergency department of a nearby hospital.
At that time, Dr. Michael was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenia and was given treatment to improve his ability to clot. After about two weeks of treatment, he died of a hemorrhagic stroke caused by the lack of platelets.
His wife has stated, “I believe that people should be aware that side effects can happen, 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.”
However, her belief in a link between the vaccine and Dr. Michael’s death has not been established. The Dade County Medical Examiner and CDC are thoroughly investigating Dr. Michael’s death. The CDC stated that:
…they will evaluate the situation as more information becomes available and provide timely updates on what is known and any necessary actions.
Pfizer, the manufacturer of the vaccine, also stated that:
We are actively investigating this case, but don’t believe at this time there is any direct connection to the vaccine. There have been no related safety signals identified in trials or vaccinations so far.
The clinical trials for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which included nearly 75,000 participants, had no immune thrombocytopenia events. And yes, the investigators across the world were asked to observe for incidents of the condition, not because they thought there would be incidents of it, but just to be sure.
What do we know?
We don’t know what causes immune thrombocytopenia. As I mentioned, it is one of the many autoimmune diseases that afflict humans. I can’t begin to list all of them, but conditions from type 1 diabetes mellitus to multiple sclerosis are autoimmune diseases with unknown etiologies. No autoimmune diseases are related to any vaccine.
In some people with immune thrombocytopenia, abnormal immune reactions may coincide with infection by certain viruses or bacteria. Exposure to these foreign invaders may trigger the body to fight the infection, but the immune system also mistakenly attacks platelets.
It might seem plausible that the vaccine could induce an immune response that might accidentally attack platelets. But that would be something that would have been identified in animal studies or clinical trials. Remember, the vaccine targets the spike, or S-protein, of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Even though it might be possible that there is some antigen on the S-protein that causes the immune system to confuse it with platelets, it would be something that is extremely rare.
On the other hand, there have been a few cases of immune thrombocytopenia as a complication of COVID-19 infections. Thus, there could be something from the whole virus that causes the condition, but that doesn’t mean the S-protein in the vaccine could do the same.
Furthermore, the incidence of immune thrombocytopenia is approximately 4 per 100,000 children, and 3 per 100,000 adults in the general population, irrespective of the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, it is difficult to determine whether de novo immune thrombocytopenia is related to the vaccine or not, but there is no evidence that appears to support such a claim.
It might be much more plausible that Dr. Gregory Michael contracted the immune thrombocytopenia from some other cause that just happened to be at the same time as the vaccine. Given the number of people who are receiving the vaccine, coincidences happen all of the time.
As I mentioned, Dr. Michael was a courageous doctor who took care of his patients in the middle of a horrible pandemic. He was obviously pro-vaccine. And he died of an extremely rare condition that probably was not related to the vaccine, but in an abundance of caution, scientists are doing their best to examine the case carefully and determine if there is causality.
From a scientific evidence perspective, there doesn’t appear to be much beyond coincidence. Although I don’t know Dr. Gregory Michael, I’m sure that as a pro-vaccine physician he would tell us to see where the evidence leads us, not to jump to conclusions that don’t make sense.
And remember, millions of people have died of COVID-19 at this time. Even if immune thrombocytopenia is very rarely linked to the vaccine (and we do not have evidence of it), the benefits far far far outweigh the risk.
What we know now
The CDC could not find a link between Dr. Michael’s death and the vaccine. The Dade County medical examiner also could not establish a link between his death and the COVID-19 vaccine.
There just does not appear to be any way to claim that the vaccine caused his condition. It was probably just a sad coincidence, or he had immune thrombocytopenia before he even received the vaccine. There are several case reports that describe immune thrombocytopenia after the COVID-19 vaccine, but case reports rank very low on the list of hierarchy of vaccine research. They represent nothing more than an observation and are never used as evidence of correlation, let alone causation.
This is probably just a sad coincidence, and after over a year of COVID-19 vaccinations, it has never become a big issue or concern.
- Bhattacharjee S, Banerjee M. Immune Thrombocytopenia Secondary to COVID-19: a Systematic Review. SN Compr Clin Med. 2020 Sep 19:1-11. doi: 10.1007/s42399-020-00521-8. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32984764; PMCID: PMC7501509.
- Lee EJ, Cines DB, Gernsheimer T, Kessler C, Michel M, Tarantino MD, Semple JW, Arnold DM, Godeau B, Lambert MP, Bussel JB. Thrombocytopenia following Pfizer and Moderna SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. Am J Hematol. 2021 May 1;96(5):534-537. doi: 10.1002/ajh.26132. Epub 2021 Mar 9. PMID: 33606296; PMCID: PMC8014568.
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