Seattle-King County Public Health reported Tuesday that a King County woman in her late 30s passed away from a "rare blood clot" after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. Jessica Berg Wilson marked only the fourth death of over 14 million people who received this vaccine in the US.
According to the county's public health department, the woman received the J&J vaccine on August 26, 2021, and died on September 7. She died from "a rare but potentially serious adverse event in people who received the J&J vaccine" called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).
Twitter censored a post showing an obituary for Wilson, who reportedly did not want to get vaccinated but needed to participate as a "Room Mom" at her young daughter's school. The platform tagged the post about Wilson's death and her cause of death as "Misleading" and provided links to "Learn why health officials consider COVID-19 vaccines safe for most people." The tweet "can't be replied to, shared, or liked."
The state Department of Health noted that TTS represents "a very rare complication," with only 38 confirmed cases of TTS of 12.5 million J&J doses administered as of July 8, 2021. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of these people recovered.
"Sadly, this is the first such death in Washington State," state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said in a news release. "We send our deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. Losing a loved one at any time is a tragic and difficult pain that's become all too familiar in the last year and a half of this pandemic."
The federal government paused the administration and distribution of the J&J vaccine for 11 days in April over 15 reported cases of blood clots across the country. Women aged 18-49 are at higher risk for these adverse events than women 50 years and older. "However, even for this younger age group, the risks from COVID-19 outweigh the risks from the J&J vaccine," King County Public Health clarified.
The CDC lifted its pause after determining that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. "The risk of any complication is shallow," and that vaccinations continue to prevent deaths and hospitalizations, they concluded. A CDC study found that every million J&J doses given to women between 18 and 49 prevented 297 hospitalizations and six deaths due to COVID compared with seven expected TTS cases.
Over the last 30 days in King County, an unvaccinated person's risk of dying from COVID was 57 times higher than a vaccinated person of the same age. The risk of being hospitalized with COVID was 41 times higher for an unvaccinated person than a vaccinated person of the same period. In King County, to date, 1,899 people have died from COVID-related illness.
Public Health writes that state and federal health agencies take vaccine safety "very seriously," adding its staff conduct daily reviews of medical records to identify patients at risk of adverse health outcomes related to the COVID vaccine. In addition, CDC, FDA, and other federal agencies also review COVID vaccine safety monitoring data regularly and in "great depth."
Public Health also said the risk of serious adverse events from the COVID vaccine is small but not zero and argued that people need to have this information to make their own informed decisions. They confirmed that residents who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine are not at risk for this rare condition.