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No 'Direct Connection' Between J&J Vaccine And UC Student's Death

johnson & johnson covid vaccine
David Zalubowski
Syringes filled with Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are loaded into a cooler for distribution early Saturday, March 6, 2021, in Denver, CO.

There is no "direct evidence" linking the death of a University of Cincinnati college student to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, an official said Friday afternoon.

Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco said a lot of speculation and misinformation on social media about the death of 21-year-old John Foley is not true. 

"We did do an autopsy on John Foley on Monday morning, and our preliminary findings did not indicate any direct connection between his receiving a COVID vaccine on Saturday and his death on Sunday," she said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is under scrutiny after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed blood clots after receiving the vaccine. One died. As of April 12, 6.8 million people have received the one-dose vaccine, and the CDC says the severe reaction is rare.But it has suggested a "pause" on distributing the vaccine while more information about the side effects is gathered.

Sammarco says a preliminary autopsy shows Foley did not have symptoms like the six women.

"I think there was some misinformation about clots or pulmonary emboli. And again, on autopsy, we did not find any evidence of that," she said.

Officials are still waiting on other test results and gathering more information about Foley's medical history. The investigation into his death is ongoing, and the medical director of the Ohio Department of Health is also involved in the process. 

"There are other issues with this death investigation and other things we're looking at for a primary cause of death," Sammarco said, though she could not elaborate because the investigation into his death is preliminary.

"From what I am told, nothing untoward was happening with him," Sammarco said. "And I think everybody was very shocked about his passing away on Sunday night."

Foley's family released a statement online.

"Our beloved son John Francis Foley is gone, and our family mourns the loss of this wonderful and sweet joy of our lives. While the facts remain unclear on how he died, we are rejoicing in how he lived: caring for others, lit with God’s grace, and generous to all...We know the doctors involved are doing their best. We must be patient, and we ask everyone else to be patient, too. John was going to be a doctor, so this is what he would want."

Sammarco says medical officials are still encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.