Norway says no link between vaccine and post-jab deaths
This file photo taken on January 08, 2021 shows empty bottles of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Emile Muller hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France.
AFP/Senastien Bozon

Norway says no link between vaccine and post-jab deaths

(Agence France-Presse) - January 19, 2021 - 10:26am

OSLO, Norway (Updated 11 a.m.) — Norway said Monday no link had been established between Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine and post-vaccination deaths in the country, but recommended doctors consider the overall health of the most frail before giving them the jab.

Since the start of Norway's vaccination campaign at the end of December, the country has registered 33 deaths among elderly people who have received their first dose, according to public health authorities.

Of the 13 cases analysed in detail so far, "they are people of advanced age, are frail and have serious illnesses, all of them," the director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health Camilla Stoltenberg told reporters.

"When it comes to causes there hasn't been any analysis done yet," she added.

"It is important to remember that on average about 45 people die every day at nursing homes in Norway, so it's not given that this represents any excess mortality or that they are related to the vaccines," she said.

After the reports of deaths, Norway has nonetheless stressed that doctors should individually consider whether patients who are frail or terminally ill should receive the vaccine, as is also recommended in some other countries.

"It's not impossible that some of those who have gotten the vaccine are so frail that maybe you should have reconsidered and not given them the vaccine, because they are so sick that they might have become worse from the normal side effects as the body reacts and builds up immunity," Stoltenberg said.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency said last week that normal side effects from messenger RNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, "may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients."

A number of countries, including Norway's neighbors Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, have reported post-vaccination deaths but no direct links to the vaccine have been established. 

Pfizer and BioNTech told AFP on Monday they were "working with the Norwegian Medicines Agency to gather all the relevant information."

They recalled that Norway's vaccination campaign started with the elderly living in care homes, "most of whom are very elderly with underlying medical conditions and some of which are terminally ill."

More than 48,000 people have been vaccinated in Norway so far.

In the Philippines, the emergency use authorization granted by the country’s Food and Drug Administration to Pfizer’s COVID-19 jab stays as authorities wait for a report from the drugmaker on the deaths of elderly people in Norway.

Pfizer is the only pharmaceutical firm that has so far obtained EUA from the Philippine FDA for its vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 95% in preventing COVID-19.

President Rodrigo Duterte brought the deaths up in defending the government's controversial deal with Chinese drugmaker Sinovac.

"If you want to follow the experience of Norway, go ahead, nobody would stop you," he said in a speech Monday evening. 

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