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Coast dad faces long recovery after stroke. Data so far shows no link to J&J vaccine.

Sun Herald - 4/19/2021

Apr. 17—Brad Malagarie, a 43-year-old father of seven from Ocean Springs, faces a long recovery from the stroke he suffered hours after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, while medical experts will be studying his case for any link.

However, suspension of the J&J vaccine for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not related to the type stroke Malagarie suffered, an ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, happens when a blood clot blocks an artery leading to the brain, cutting off oxygen and blood flow.

Instead, the federal government "paused" use of the J&J vaccine because of six cases of a rare clotting disorder, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, combined with low blood platelets. Six women, ages 18-48, developed the symptoms 6 to 13 days after vaccination.

To see blood clots in the brain and low blood platelets simultaneously is extremely rare because platelets help blood clot.

Malagarie's family is not suggesting that people avoid being vaccinated, but they do want the cause of his stroke investigated. His aunt, Celeste O'Keefe, received Moderna vaccinations, but wants more transparency with the J&J vaccine given its troubled manufacturing history.

The single-dose J&J vaccine did not roll out until February and uses a different technology than the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which have proven safe and effective against COVID-19.

After Malagarie's stroke, Mississippi doctors emphasized the proven safety of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, especially because of the serious illnesses COVID can cause, including strokes, blood clots, heart attacks and pulmonary dysfunction.

"The main thing is the public's health," said Dr. Jennifer Bryan, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association. "We have to remember the big picture. Millions of vaccines have been given safely."

Why Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended the J&J vaccine suspension, which states have followed.

All six women who suffered from CVST and low blood platelets were hospitalized, two of them in critical condition. One woman died. A total of 6.85 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered before the suspension.

"For the blood plates to coagulate while you are getting clots in the brain is very rare, very unusual," said Martha Sharan of CDC public affairs. "That's why this is such an immediate safety concern."

All six cases were identified through the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, a safety monitoring system maintained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The same condition has been documented in the European Union and United Kingdom with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, where Malagarie wound up, reported his ischemic stroke to VAERS, as health care providers are required to do.

Malagarie suffered a stroke while at work the afternoon of April 6. He received the J&J vaccine about four hours earlier.

O'Keefe is troubled that two Coast hospitals where Malagarie was admitted before his transfer to Ochsner did not report his stroke to VAERS. She said Ochsner did so only after the family reminded medical staff.

She wonders how many cases of stroke after COVID vaccination have gone unreported.

By April 2, 32 ischemic strokes following COVID vaccinations had been reported through VAERS, but only one involved the J&J vaccine. On the same day, 157.6 million doses of COVID vaccines had been administered, Reuters reported.

"There is no statistically significant increased risk for ischemic stroke detected following the administration of COVID-19 vaccines," Sharan said. "The number of incidents is below baseline, or what is expected to be naturally occurring in the population.

VAERS records adverse events but does not determine the cause.

VAERS shows 37 reported ischemic strokes in a 1-21 day time frame after a Moderna or Pfizer vaccination. In the same number of vaccinated individuals, 41 ischemic strokes were reported.

"A serious report does not mean those adverse events were caused by the vaccine," Sharan said. "Some of those adverse events may be true adverse reactions or they may be coincidental events and not related to vaccination."

CDC, MS health dept. will investigate case

Both the CDC and MSHD said that Malagarie's case will be further investigated.

He is unable to talk or move his right side. But O'Keefe said her nephew did draw a circle with his left hand, an encouraging sign for the family. His wife, Cori, has left her job to be by his side, while their children are staying with relatives.

Malagarie will be transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the nation's best for stroke rehabilitation, within a few days, O'Keefe said. Although he has insurance, the family has already absorbed related expenses of $16,000 or more.

O'Keefe said the transfer to Atlanta is not covered by his health insurance and will cost up to $7,000.

O'Keefe has set up an account of Facebook to raise money and there also is a "meal train" where supporters can sign up to deliver meals for the children or donate money for food.

O'Keefe, co-founder of Dancel Media in D'Iberville, also employs Malagarie as a media technician. Dancel is matching contributions with $10,000.

Those who prefer to send a check can make it out to Cori Malagarie and mail it to the Malagaries c/o Dancel Media, 10265 Rodriguez St., D'Iberville, MS 39540.


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