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No Evidence Vaccine Caused Mississippi Gulf Coast Man’s Stroke, MSDH Says

A photo of Brad Malagarie smiling
Jackson County resident Brad Malagarie suffered a stroke hours after receiving a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, his family said. Despite a flurry of speculative reports, however, public health officials say there is no evidence that the vaccine triggered the stroke. Photo courtesy Malagarie family

The Mississippi State Department of Health says there is no evidence that a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine caused a St. Martin, Miss., man to suffer a stroke. 

Less than a day after Mississippi paused administrations of the one-shot vaccine, news outlets across the state began reporting unfounded speculation that a dose caused 43-year-old Brad Malagarie, who is currently hospitalized, to suffer a stroke.

The early morning reports today did not cite any medical experts. WLOX based its reporting on the words of Malagrie’s aunt, who is not a physician. The report quoted her saying that “he took that J & J vaccine and that, to me, is what caused his stroke.” 

“The Mississippi State Department of Health is saddened to hear about the recent illness of Mr. Malagarie and wishes him well,” MSDH Communications Director Liz Sharlot said in a  statement today. “The Agency is certainly investigating the situation. It is difficult, if not impossible, to assign a cause and effect at this time.”

‘Strokes Are Not Associated With This Vaccine’

Malagrie’s family said the Jackson County man suffered the stroke about three hours after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But the man’s symptoms and that timeline make it even less likely that his illness is vaccine-related, MSDH suggested today.

“It is important to note that strokes are not associated with this vaccine—instead, a rare clotting syndrome has been identified,” Sharlot said. “Further, adverse reactions have been cited between six and 13 days after the vaccine was administered. Of the six noted cases, all are women between the age of 18 and 38.”

Thomas Dobbs at mic
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs stressed that COVID-19 is incalculably more dangerous than any vaccine. “Like we said, more than one in 10 people over the age of 65 diagnosed with COVID-19 in Mississippi will die. There are orders of magnitude between those risks.” Photo courtesy State of Mississippi

The Centers for Disease Control recommended a pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccines yesterday while it investigates those six reported incidents out of the nearly 7 million Johnson & Johnson doses that health-care workers have administered. The vaccine has not been confirmed as the cause of the clotting.

The Mississippi outlets that reported on the speculation about Malagrie’s case this morning include the Sun Herald, WLOX, WLBT, WTOK and WDAM, among others. WLOX, WLBT, WTOK and WDAM are all owned by Gray Television, Inc., an Atlanta-based television broadcasting company. Outlets outside Mississippi also picked the speculative story up before MSDH released its statement, including the Charlotte Observer and Local 24 Memphis.

‘There Are Orders of Magnitude Between Those Risks’

The pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccines does not affect the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. There is no evidence of similar clotting complications with either of those vaccines, which require two doses and are based on a different vaccination technology.

During a press conference yesterday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs stressed that, even with the now-paused Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the risk of serious complications is low. The CDC recommended the pause out of “an abundance of caution,” health officials said yesterday.

“We’re talking about a rare complication … the relative risk of this vaccine is so low compared to COVID,” Dobbs said.

“One in a million is a very uncommon thing to happen. Like we said, more than one in 10 people over the age of 65 diagnosed with COVID-19 in Mississippi will die. There are orders of magnitude between those risks.”

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