A Few Covid Vaccine Recipients Developed a Rare Blood Disorder
A link to the vaccines is not certain, and investigations are underway in some reported cases.
Luz Legaspi was hospitalized with a severe case of immune thrombocytopenia — a lack of platelets — one day after receiving a dose of the Moderna Covid vaccine.Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times
By Denise Grady
One day after receiving her first dose of Moderna’s Covid vaccine, Luz Legaspi, 72, woke up with bruises on her arms and legs, and blisters that bled inside her mouth.
She was hospitalized in New York City that day, Jan. 19, with a severe case of immune thrombocytopenia — a lack of platelets, a blood component essential for clotting.
The same condition led to the death in January of Dr. Gregory Michael, 56, an obstetrician in Miami Beach whose symptoms appeared three days after he received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Treatments failed to restore his platelets, and after two weeks in the hospital he died from a brain hemorrhage.
It is not known whether this blood disorder is related to the Covid vaccines. More than 31 million people in the United States have received at least one dose, and 36 similar cases had been reported to the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, VAERS, by the end of January. The cases involved either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, the only two authorized so far for emergency use in the United States.
But the reporting system shows only problems described by health care providers or patients after vaccination, and does not indicate whether the shots actually caused the problems.
Officials with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that they were looking into the reports, but that so far, rates of the condition in vaccinated people did not appear higher than the rates normally found in the U.S. population, so the cases could be coincidental. Overall, the vaccines are considered safe. A small number of severe allergic reactions have been reported, but they are treatable, and the rates are in line with those reported for other vaccines, regulators say.
In a statement, Pfizer said: “We take reports of adverse events very seriously,” and added that it was aware of thrombocytopenia cases in vaccine recipients.
The statement also said: “We are collecting relevant information to share with the F.D.A. However, at this time, we have not been able to establish a causal association with our vaccine.”
Moderna also provided a statement, which did not address the question of the platelet disorder, but said the company “continuously monitors the safety of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine using all sources of data” and routinely shares safety information with regulators.
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