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In early October 2021, Snopes readers inquired about an obituary published in The Oregonian newspaper for Jessica Berg Wilson, a 37-year-old Seattle resident. The obituary stated that the mother of two small children had died shortly after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Wilson “passed away unexpectedly Sept. 7, 2021 from COVID-19 Vaccine-Induced Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT) surrounded by her loving family,” the obituary said.
Wilson had been “vehemently opposed” to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. But she complied with a statewide COVID-19 vaccination requirement applying to K-12 school workers so that she could continue serving as a “room mom” at her children’s school, according to the obituary.
For a number of reasons, the obituary went viral.
For one, the obituary’s writer railed against vaccine mandates, stating that it eliminated Wilson’s “right to consult her wisdom and enjoy her freedom.” For another, the social media platform Twitter temporarily labeled a tweet containing the obituary as “misleading,” earning the wrath of people who oppose vaccines and/or vaccine mandates.
The viral nature of the obituary also prompted some to question the veracity of the statements made in it. For example, Reddit users debated alleged “inconsistencies” in the obituary in a popular thread.
But the obituary is real.
The details of Wilson’s death in the obituary match public statements made by public health officials. Public Health – Seattle & King County confirmed in a news release on Oct. 5, 2021, that a 37-year-old King County woman died on Sept. 7, 2021, from a “very rare vaccine complication” just shy of two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
According to the news release, the diagnosis is “a rare but potentially serious adverse event in people who received the J&J vaccine.” The diagnosis and death were also confirmed by the CDC, according to King County officials.
County officials didn’t name Wilson in their statement due to privacy requirements, because the King County Medical Examiner’s Office didn’t have jurisdiction over the case. A spokesperson for Public Health – Seattle & King County told Snopes in an email that was because “the death occurred under care of medical providers and the cause of death was known.”
Both The Oregonian and The Seattle Times newspapers, however, noted that details like the age, date of death, and county of residence in the county’s news release match those in Wilson’s obituary.
Wilson is one of four people known to have died from the blood clotting condition after receiving the J&J vaccine. As of this writing, about 15 million doses of that vaccine have been given.
In April 2021, U.S. health officials called for a temporary halt in administering the J&J vaccine “out of an abundance of caution,” citing concerns over a rare but serious blood clotting risk. In April 2021, we reported:
Health officials reported that at least six women between the ages of 18 and 48 experienced a rare and severe type of blood clot called a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) within six to 13 days after receiving their vaccination. As of April 12, more than 7.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered in the U.S., meaning that less than one-in-a-million recipients experienced a CVST — .000083% of those who had received their single-dose vaccine.
On April 23, 2021, the CDC called for the resumption of administering the J&J vaccine after concluding the benefits outweigh the risks. The vaccine now contains a warning label about the risk of blood clots.
Dapcevich, Madison. “Did CDC Recommend Temporary Pause in US J&J Vaccine Distribution?” Snopes.com, 13 April 2021, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/cdc-halts-us-jj-covid-shots/.
“King County Statement on Resident Who Died of Rare Vaccine-Related Blood Clot.” Public Health Insider, 5 Oct. 2021, https://publichealthinsider.com/2021/10/05/king-county-statement-on-resident-who-died-of-rare-vaccine-related-blood-clot/.
“Jessica Berg Wilson Obituary (1983 – 2021) The Oregonian.” Legacy.Com, https://obits.oregonlive.com/us/obituaries/oregon/name/jessica-wilson-obituary?pid=200278331. Accessed 6 Oct. 2021.
Green, Aimee. “Jessica Berg Wilson Becomes 4th Woman Whose Death Is Linked to J&J COVID-19 Vaccine in US.” The Oregonian, 5 Oct. 2021, https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2021/10/seattle-woman-who-grew-up-in-portland-becomes-4th-in-us-whose-death-is-linked-to-jj-covid-19-vaccine.html.
Takahama, Elise. “King County woman confirmed to have died from rare J&J vaccine complication.” Seattle Times, 5 October 2021, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/king-county-woman-in-late-30s-becomes-first-person-in-washington-to-die-of-jj-vaccine-complication/
“Twitter Fact Checks Obituary of Mother ‘Who Died from the Vaccine.’” Daily Mail, 4 October 2021, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/twitter-fact-checks-obituary-of-mother-who-died-from-the-vaccine/ar-AAP6DsF.
“COVID Data Tracker.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker, Accessed 6 October 2021.