State and federal officials are investigating the death of a 58-year-old woman in Virginia, who died hours after receiving her first shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Drene Keyes, waited the recommended 15 minutes on site after receiving her vaccine. A few hours later she began vomiting and having trouble breathing. A doctor at the vaccination site gave her an epinephrine shot in the leg. She also received oxygen, and another shot of epinephrine in her arm. When she didn’t improve, she was taken to VCU Tappahannock Hospital, where she died.
Keyes’ daughter, Lisa Jones, told WKTR:
“They tried to remove fluid from her lungs. They called it ‘flash pulmonary edema,’ and doctors told me that it can be caused by anaphylaxis. The doctor told me that often during anaphylaxis, chemicals are released inside of a person’s body and can cause this to happen.”
Anaphylaxis is a severe adverse life-threatening allergy reaction that rarely occurs after vaccination. According to the CDC, in the United States as of January 19 there were 45 cases of anaphylaxsis with the Pfizer shot out of the several million given. The risks were also spelled out on the paperwork Keyes received prior to her shot.
Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver told NBC News today that “preliminary findings” indicate that the cause of death was not anaphylaxis, but it will take several weeks for additional information to become available. “We can confirm that the death occurred within hours of having received the vaccine, but that is not evidence of it being related,” Oliver said.
The “gifted singer and grandmother of six” had underlying health conditions, was obese, diabetic, and took cholesterol and blood pressure medications, the Daily Express reported. Still, Keyes was eligible for the vaccine because she worked for the Middle Peninsula Northern Neck Community Services Board, supervising two sites. Jones told WBRZ, her mother “was wanting to protect herself, and it did not turn out that way.”
Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s state vaccine coordinator, told the Daily Express, Keyes’ death is under investigation by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
People who have had an allergic reaction to polyethylene glycol or polysorbate are advised to not get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to the state health department.
Public health officials say that if you get a vaccine and think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the site, call 911 for immediate medical attention.
An autopsy and toxicology tests are being performed on Keyes this week.