As more and more Tri-Staters receive the coronavirus vaccine, health officials in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana continue to tout its importance in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and preventing serious or deadly cases.
But they're also watching other impacts the available inoculations might be having: if the vaccine itself can cause serious illness or even death.
According to local health officials, a direct, definitive link has not been established between the three vaccines available in the U.S. and serious illness or death that has followed. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, though, do indicate that some doctors have reported a possible correlation in rare cases.
Doctors in Ohio have reported 56 seniors statewide who have died after getting doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine since they became available in December. Whether their deaths were caused by the vaccine remains unclear and under review.
"We have to look at these things, but they're just anecdotes. They're not fact," said Dr. O'dell Owens, CEO of Interact for Health and former Hamilton County coroner.
One such case, according to the CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), involved an 86-year-old who died after receiving his second dose of Pfizer. According to CDC records, the individual also had a long history of lung and heart issues, but the doctor reported the correlation anyway "out of abundance of caution."
Other cases involved stroke, heart attacks; one couldn't stop using the bathroom and ultimately died there after receiving the vaccine.
"(My father) didn't get out of bed for the next few days after receiving the vaccine," the son of one patient wrote. "The little amount he ate was consumed by the bed... While he might have passed in any case, I believe that the vaccine may possibly have increased his weakness/exhaustion and thereby hastening his demise."
Both Owens and chief clinical officer for Mercy Health - Cincinnati, Dr. Steve Feagins, agree these cases are not cause for alarm.
"Those are excellent descriptions of things we want to look at that may or may not be related to a vaccine," Feagins said, adding, "Every signal points to these as being safe vaccines. Every signal."
Owens said there isn't enough data yet to draw definitive conclusions.
"The science will have to look at all these cases and then try to figure out if there's a causal relationship," he said.