Jeanie Evans received the first shot of a coronavirus vaccine at a facility in Jefferson County on March 23. She died unexpectedly the following day at the Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka after experiencing an adverse reaction to the vaccine, according to an obituary at the Becker-Dyer-Stanton Funeral Home.
It is not clear whether Evans suffered from preexisting conditions or comorbidities. KDHE officials also didn't mention which coronavirus vaccine Evans received. Three coronavirus vaccines are approved for use in the United States so far: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson.
State health officials suggested that Evans may have experienced a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, during the waiting period following her inoculation. In a statement, the KDHE said that the local health department followed the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Kristi Zears, a spokesperson for the KDHE, said it would be premature to assign a specific cause of death until after their investigation is complete. She added that Evans' death is being investigated in accordance with standard protocol.
Meanwhile, health experts from the University of Kansas said more information would be needed so that they can understand exactly what happened. They also cautioned against people basing their opinions of the coronavirus vaccines on a single incident.
Steven Stites, chief medical officer at the university, said people shouldn't take this event "to such an extreme" that they refuse to get vaccinated. Stites said people wouldn't want to do this in a time where the U.S. is seeing "great division" and a "great fight between red states and blue states."
That said, he admitted that it's possible that an extreme reaction to a coronavirus vaccine would lead to death. Meanwhile, other health experts have downplayed the possibility of death following vaccination. Thomas Moore, an infectious disease specialist with Wesley Medical Center, said severe allergic reactions to coronavirus vaccines have been described in clinical trials. However, they are extremely rare.
Moore added that most people who developed a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine already had a history of a brisk immune reaction to many things, especially food allergies. But he insisted that the vast majority of people who are allergic to food, pollen and some drugs can still be vaccinated and not have problems.
In addition, Moore also said vaccine clinics should have supplies on hand to treat adverse reactions. For example, EpiPens, disposable auto-injectors used to treat severe allergic emergencies like anaphylaxis, would be handy in case of adverse reactions following vaccination.
But according to dispatch records, responders injected Evans with an EpiPen prior to moving her to Stormont Vail Hospital. She still died a day later.
To date, 22 people in Kansas died within days of receiving a shot of a coronavirus vaccine. Still, health experts say the deaths may not be directly linked to the vaccines.
Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt, an internal medicine specialist in Wichita, Kansas, said the deaths do not mean that 22 people died from the vaccine. Instead, those deaths occurred "in close proximity to getting the vaccine."
However, she said the deaths should still be investigated to determine whether they occurred due to a vaccine.
Meanwhile, Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), maintained that there is still no evidence to suggest a link between any of the deaths and any of the coronavirus vaccines.
Vaccine trials have shown that severe allergic reactions that may or may not lead to death are still a possibility with the coronavirus vaccines. However, most health experts claim such reactions are "extremely rare," comparable to a person's chance of getting struck by lighting.
As of March 8, more than 92 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, the CDC reported. There have also been 1,637 deaths following injections in the U.S. alone. (Related: Once the coronavirus vaccine death wave kicks in, expect far fewer Democrats in America.)
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