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Covid-19: Norway raises concerns about Pfizer vaccine after spate of deaths among elderly recipients

OSLO — At least 29 people have died in Norway after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, raising concerns about its effect on elderly people with serious underlying health conditions, Bloomberg reported on Saturday (Jan 16).

Covid-19: Norway raises concerns about Pfizer vaccine after spate of deaths among elderly recipients

At least 29 people have died in Norway after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

OSLO — At least 29 people have died in Norway after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, raising concerns about its effect on elderly people with serious underlying health conditions, Bloomberg reported on Saturday (Jan 16).

Norway has given at least one dose of the vaccine to about 42,000 people, rolling out the shots to those who are considered most at risk if they contract the coronavirus, such as the elderly.

While Bloomberg reported that it is unclear exactly when the deaths occurred, the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech was the only one available in Norway until Friday.

“All deaths are thus linked to this vaccine,” the Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a written response to Bloomberg.

The agency added: “There are 13 deaths that have been assessed, and we are aware of another 16 deaths that are currently being assessed.”

It said that all the reported deaths are related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders”.

The average age of the deaths is reportedly 75.

“Most people have experienced the expected side effects of the vaccine, such as nausea and vomiting, fever, local reactions at the injection site, and worsening of their underlying condition,” the report said.

Bloomberg reported that the findings have prompted Norway to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for the very old and terminally ill.

“For those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences. For those who have a very short remaining life span anyway, the benefit of the vaccine may be marginal or irrelevant,’ the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Pfizer said that together with BioNTech, it is working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths in Norway.

Pfizer said that “the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations”.

“We are aware that deaths have also been reported in other countries, but do not have full details of this yet,” Norway’s medicines agency said. “There are also differences between countries in who is prioritised for vaccination, and this could also affect the reporting of side effects, including death.”

As governments rush to roll out vaccines to try to contain the global pandemic, Bloomberg wrote that official reports of allergic reactions have been rare, with the authorities in the United States reporting 21 cases of severe allergic reactions from Dec 14 to 23 after about 1.9 million initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered.

The first Europe-wide safety report on the Pfizer vaccine is due to be published at the end of January.

Australian health minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday that the country is seeking urgent information on the issue from the producer, health authorities and Norway’s government.

Australia has an agreement for 10 million doses of the vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine is, so far, the only Covid-19 vaccine that has been approved for use in Singapore.

Vaccinations for healthcare workers started on Dec 30 last year, while shots for the elderly — starting with those aged 70 and above — will begin from February 2021.

TODAY has reached out to Singapore’s Ministry of Health regarding the Norwegian authorities’ warning over the vaccine. AGENCIES

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Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus coronavirus vaccine safety

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