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South Florida Doctor's Death Investigated After Taking Coronavirus Vaccine

MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) - The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner says the death of a South Florida doctor has not been definitively linked to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine he took weeks earlier.

Dr. Gregory Michael, who practiced at Mount Sinai Medical Center, died two weeks after taking the vaccine.

His widow, Heidi Neckelmann, posted on Facebook, "He was a very healthy, 56-year-old loved by everyone in the community, delivered hundreds of healthy babies and worked tirelessly during the pandemic. I believe people should be aware side effects can happen."

Neckelmann also said her husband had a hemorrhagic stroke due to a lack of platelets. He reportedly had an unusual case of severe thrombocytopenia, a condition that decreases the body's ability to clot bod and stop internal bleeding.

Neckelmann said he sought emergency care three days after getting the vaccine after spotting dots on his skin indicating internal bleeding.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious diseases specialist and professor of medicine at F.I.U., told CBS4's Peter D'Oench "Any death like this is very tragic. He was a colleague and I feel the loss of Dr. Michael quite deeply."

"There is nothing in the clinical trials that would indicate this is a likely outcome from the vaccine itself. That said we are always learning new things. This is a new situation and we have to look into it very carefully," she added. "You have to look at the many millions of people who have been vaccinated throughout the world with these vaccines and compared that to what's going around the world with the death and morbidity because of COVID-19. I know the Medical Examiner is top-notch in Miami-Dade and will be able to provide us details that will explain exactly what happened."

The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner is working with the Florida Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate Michael's death.

While it was not definitively linked to the vaccine, that is among the possibilities being explored, according to Darren Caprara, director of operations at the medical examiner's office.

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Caprara said Michael received a vaccine around December 19 and died "late January 3rd into the 4th."

An autopsy was conducted Tuesday, Caprara said, with the cause of death pending the completion of studies by the medical examiner and partner agencies.

Pfizer also said it was investigating.

"Pfizer and BioNTech are aware of the death of a healthcare professional sixteen days after receiving a first dose" of the vaccine, Pfizer said in a statement. "It is a highly unusual clinical case of severe thrombocytopenia, a condition that decreases the body's ability to clot blood and stop internal bleeding," it added.

"We are actively investigating this case, but we don't believe at this time that there is any direct connection to the vaccine," the company said in the statement.

"There have been no related safety signals identified in our clinical trials, the post-marketing experience thus far or with the mRNA vaccine platform. To date, millions of people have been vaccinated and we are closely monitoring all adverse events in individuals receiving our vaccine."

CDC officials said Wednesday it had not seen any worrying severe reactions to coronavirus vaccines beyond 29 cases of severe allergic reactions.

According to the CDC, more than 5.3 million people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the US.

In its statement Wednesday night, the agency said it regularly reviews safety data along with other federal agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration, as well as vaccine safety experts who independently review the data, make recommendations, and provide guidance.

"CDC will evaluate the situation as more information becomes available and provide timely updates on what is known and any necessary actions," the statement said.

Both Pfizer and the CDC said their thoughts were with the family.

(©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)

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