Twenty-nine people died in Norway after receiving their first jab of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials in the country confirmed that of this number, about 13 of them were older people in nursing homes and apparently died from the side effects of the vaccine, Bloomberg reports.
With this situation, Norway’s health officials expressed concerns about the safety of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. The deaths also lowered the age group thought to be affected from 75 to 80. It is yet to be established when these deaths occurred. As of the time of reporting, the country had vaccinated at least 42,000 people, focusing on individuals that are most at risk of the virus, including first responders and the elderly ones.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine approved by the Norwegian government, the Norwegian Medicines Agency stated. This means that all deaths resulting from vaccinations were occasioned by the vaccine from the American pharmaceutical giant.
The agency announced that 13 deaths have already been duly evaluated and confirmed, while another 16 are currently undergoing evaluations. The country’s health regulator noted that the elderly, with serious complications, were the chief casualties. Since their first dose of the vaccine, most people have reported side effects such as nausea and vomiting, fever, local reactions at the injection site, and the worsening of health conditions.
There have been pockets of allergic reactions to the vaccine, as many countries around the world implement their vaccination programs to curb the spread of a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives. In the United States, officials reported 21 cases of severe allergic reactions from December 14 to 23. These allergic reactions followed 1.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine administered on citizens, NY Post writes.
With the new development from Norway, Australia has sought more clarification about the side effects of the Pfizer vaccine. Australia has an agreement with Pfizer for the delivery of about 10 million doses of the vaccine. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters that its regulator is in contact with their peer in Norway.
The Norway experience has given other countries what to watch out for as progress on vaccination programs worldwide moves to top gear.
The head of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, said tracking the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine remains one of the biggest challenges once inoculation programs are carried out on a large scale. This is especially true if regulators rely on the new mRNA technology in their tracking efforts.
Before approval in Europe, the two vaccines approved by the European Commission – the vaccines developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, and Moderna, were tested in tens of thousands of volunteers who were in their 80s and 90s. However, the average ages of the participants were in their 50s. As countries hurry to protect their senior citizens from the scourge of the pandemic, the ages of those vaccinated so far are way above the average ages of the trial participants.
With what has played out so far, Norway is forced to suggest that maybe the COVID-19 vaccines are not suitable for the very elderly and terminally ill. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is of the opinion that for the most severe cases of COVID-19, the side effects of the vaccines, even in their mildest form, may have disastrous consequences.
Pfizer has reacted to the development in Norway. The company said it is in touch with the Norwegian authorities to investigate the deaths in the country. The drugmaker noted that although it is aware of reported deaths in other countries, it is not in full knowledge of the details yet.