Cohen’s symptoms began on May 5, 2021, when she suffered a panic attack while driving. By June, she was unable to care for herself and was hospitalized. She died on July 22, 11 weeks after her symptoms began - and only 13 weeks after she received her second Pfizer shot.
This March, several physicians who treated Cohen posted a report about her case to the Scholarly Commons page of HCA Healthcare., devoted to academic work by HCA physicians and other employees. The report on Cohen’s case - highlighting the close timing between her mRNA shots and her illness - quickly became among the page’s most downloaded.
Until June, when HCA, the largest for-profit hospital system in the United States, pulled the report. Its link now returns only a generic error message.
Cohen had received Pfizer’s mRNA Covid vaccine in April. Her second dose came April 25, 10 days before her panic attack. The physicians who treated her at HCA Florida Aventura Hospital, a South Florida medical center, feared her illness might have been related to the vaccine, though they had no proof.
CJD belongs to a nasty class of illnesses known as prion diseases, which occur when proteins in the brain misfold and become useless, destroying brain function. It affects only one out of one million people every year.
But because the Covid vaccines were distributed so widely, some some people with CJD would be expected to present with the illness only days or weeks after being jabbed, simply by chance.
Still, Cohen’s case concerned her physicians, in part because her illness had moved so fast. Screening had also revealed Cohen had an extraordinarily high level of T-tau protein, a marker of neurodegeneration. They decided to write up a case report and submit it to HCA’s Website, as well as to prepare a longer paper for peer review.
Led by Dr. Andrea Folds, an internal medicine resident at the hospital, Cohen’s physicians wrote a one-page poster summarizing the case: “Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease After Receiving the Second Dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine."
In late March, HCA published the poster on its Scholarly Commons Website. HCA Healthcare is the largest for-profit hospital company in the United States, with 283,000 employees in 20 states. It calls Scholarly Commons “a collaborative, open access resource developed to discover and showcase our contributions to medical knowledge.”
Even before Cohen’s case, in early 2021, some fringe scientists had conjectured the mRNA vaccines might risk causing or accelerating CJD or other brain diseases by triggering brain proteins to misfold. But their claims were theoretical and speculative and almost universally dismissed.
“Fact check: COVID-19 vaccine not associated with neurodegenerative disease,” USA Today wrote on March 31, 2021.” Thus even discussing the possibility - however unlikely - of a potential association between the mRNA shots and prion or brain diseases became yet another topic off-limits to mainstream scientists and the media.
“There is no proof of causation, I have to definitely say that,” Dr. Folds said in an interview. “My position is that I had an actual case that was temporally related to sporadic CJD and I wanted to see if there was any plausible mechanism.”
Folds said she did not know why HCA had pulled the poster and had been surprised when it did. She did not press the issue because she remains focused on publishing a longer report to a peer-reviewed journal, she said.
In response to a question about why HCA had pulled the poster without notifying Folds, Meghan Stanford, an HCA spokesperson, said via email the company was concerned about its apparent popularity.
“When we noticed an abnormally high number of downloads, we temporarily removed it to ensure there was not a technological issue with the website,” Stanford wrote. “We have confirmed there are no technology concerns and therefore plan to repost the poster back on the website soon.”
Meanwhile, for those who are interested, here is the full report: