Medical researchers in Norway are said to begin thorough evaluations of very frail elderly patients in line to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the COVID-19 after report of some 23 patients dying not long after they had received their dose of the vaccine.
“It may be a coincidence, but we aren’t sure,” Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA), told The BMJ. “There is no certain connection between these deaths and the vaccine.”
And according to the research conducted on 13 of those 23 fatal cases, the conclusion was that common adverse reaction of the mRNA vaccine which includes fever, nausea and diarrhea might have been the contributing factor of their fatalities in those frail patients.
“There is a possibility that these common adverse reactions, that are not dangerous in fitter, younger patients and are not unusual with vaccines, may aggravate underlying disease in the elderly,” Madsen said.
“We are not alarmed or worried about this, because these are very rare occurrences and they occurred in very frail patients with very serious disease,” he emphasised. “We are now asking for doctors to continue with the vaccination, but to carry out extra evaluation of very sick people whose underlying condition might be aggravated by it.”
The research will however allow the doctors to discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccination with the patient and their families to decide whether or not vaccination is the best course.
Over the past few weeks, about 20,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Norway while nearly 400 deaths usually occur in care home residents each week.
The Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany is also investigating 10 deaths shortly after covid-19 vaccination.
As for the United Kingdom which first started the jabbing using the Pfizer and BionTech’s vaccine back in December, the country’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) stated that details of suspected reactions reported in association with the vaccine would be released with its assessment of the data on a regular basis in the future.
Based on the available published reports from the clinical trials, the MHRA said it did not currently anticipate any specific safety concerns.
In a statement, Pfizer said, “Pfizer and BioNTech are aware of reported deaths following administration of BNT162b2. We are working with NOMA to gather all the relevant information.
“Norwegian authorities have prioritised the immunisation of residents in nursing homes, most of whom are very elderly with underlying medical conditions and some of whom are terminally ill. NOMA confirm the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations. All reported deaths will be thoroughly evaluated by NOMA to determine if these incidents are related to the vaccine. The Norwegian government will also consider adjusting their vaccination instructions to take the patients’ health into more consideration.
“Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved families.”
However, the CDC has assured that the vaccine is safe to use even though there have been a lot of myths flying around the internet about the vaccine.