Despite social media rumors, the autopsy of University of Cincinnati student John Foley has produced no evidence that COVID-19 or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine directly contributed to his sudden death.
“At this point in time, we don’t have any evidence to indicate that the vaccine was related to his death,” Hamilton County coroner Lakshmi Sammarco said in a Friday afternoon news conference.
Sammarco said her office is exploring other, likelier causes of death but declined to provide specific information about an investigation in progress.
Foley, a 21-year-old Columbus native, died at home on April 11.
He had received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine the day before, and social media posts quickly appeared claiming it had caused his death. Some claimed that Foley’s autopsy produced evidence he experienced fatal blood clots, mimicking a potentially fatal side effect recorded in six known Johnson & Johnson recipients.
This isn’t true, Sammarco said. Foley had no blood clots and didn’t experience a pulmonary embolism.
Her office’s death investigation remains in early stages, and Sammarco said she would prefer to wait for information about his real cause of death rather than float possibilities to the media.
Her staff is still waiting to learn more about Foley’s medical history and to receive results on some post-mortem tests.
“I would rather not give any information which is incomplete until we have more specific testing,” she said. “I don’t want to share any specifics about things we have found and that may have contributed to his death.”
She added: “Until those results come back, we don’t have definitive answers. Our deepest condolences go out to the family. I have a 21-year-old in the same program that John was in, and this was particularly close to the heart.”
Sammarco encouraged Hamilton County residents to get their vaccine when it becomes available, to talk openly with family and friends, and to use official sources for research if they are worried about potential side effects.
“I realize it’s a personal decision, but I would like to encourage people to do the research and get the real information, and not just get your facts from social media," she said.