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Family, friends say Las Vegas teen suffered severe reaction to J&J vaccine |

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Family, friends say Las Vegas teen suffered severe reaction to J&J vaccine

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) -- A young Las Vegas woman is fighting in the hospital, after her family says she suffered a severe reaction to Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

Family and friends have identified the woman as 18-year-old Emma Burkey. She is described as kind, loving and full of faith. She is slowly recovering in the hospital right now, and family and friends hope the power of prayer will help pull her through.

8 News Now talked with Heiden Ratner, senior pastor at WALK Church. Ratner is speaking on behalf of members of the Burkey family, who have been attending WALK Church services for several years now. Emma even babysits for Ratner and his wife sometimes.

"She's a young woman with a bright future ahead of her," Ratner said.

Loved ones say Emma had a serious reaction to the vaccine earlier this month, on or around April 1.

"Some seizures, which led to her going to the hospital," Ratner said. "Some brain clots were starting to form in and around her brain."

Ratner says Emma was transferred to a California hospital while in an induced coma, and she has undergone three brain surgeries.

But the good news is, she appears to be making some progress.

"She's responding to cues from her parents and the doctors. She's breathing on her own," Ratner shared. "We've been seeing some miracles throughout this journey, but we believe there's still more to come."

Emma is one of six women across the country who have reportedly experienced severe blood clots after getting the J&J vaccine. Out of around seven million shots given, that makes these intense reactions a one-in-a-million occurrence.

In this March 6, 2021, file photo, boxes stand next vials of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

"It's very, very rare," said Dr. Marc J. Kahn, dean of the UNLV Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine.

The J&J vaccine has been put on hold while researchers look more into it. But Kahn says when it comes back, which some experts believe will be soon, we should not be afraid of getting it.

"We know that if you get an active COVID infection, your risk of clotting may be as high as two or 3%," Kahn said. "So, the risk-benefit for even the J&J vaccine strongly favors getting vaccinated."

Ratner says people should make informed decisions about the vaccine, but his main mission right now is asking the community to continue praying for Emma.

"We have optimistic faith," Ratner said. "We're praying for better days ahead."

8 News Now has confirmed that Emma is a senior at Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas. Below is a statement released by the school:

The student body and staff here at Coral Academy have heavy hearts as we now know one of our very own students has experienced adverse side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In a “one in a million” chance of this happening, we are heartbroken, yet pledge our support to the family during this difficult time. We have also made on-campus resources readily available for those who know the student and need assistance during this time. We support all of our parents and their individual right to choose how to move forward with vaccinating their students." 

Ercan Aydogdu, executive director and CEO of Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas

A GoFundMe page has been created to help pay for Emma's hospital bills. If you would like to donate, click here.

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