Norway has upped its estimate of the number of people who have died after receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to 29, Bloomberg reported this weekend.
Norway’s health authority reported last Thursday that at least 23 people had died from complications after receiving the Pfizer vaccine but Bloomberg reports the figure has been adjusted upward to 29 and the age group affected has been lowered from 80 to 75.
Norway began injecting its citizens with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 27, with 67-year-old Svein Andersen becoming the first Norwegian to receive the vaccine, administered at the Ellingsrudhjemmet nursing home where he resides.
Since then, some 42,000 Norwegians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with a focus on those considered most at risk from the virus, such as the elderly.
Until last Friday, the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech SE was the only one available in Norway, and “all deaths are thus linked to this vaccine,” the Norwegian Medicines Agency — Norway’s regulatory authority for new and existing medicines — told Bloomberg on Saturday.
All the reported deaths related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders,” the agency said. “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.”
Steinar Madsen, the medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency said last Thursday that some vaccinated patients “experience severe side effects in the form of fever and malaise that can lead to a very serious illness becoming a more serious one, which may lead to death.”
All the reported deaths have occurred among frail, elderly patients in nursing homes. In this context, “frail” means patients with advanced heart conditions, dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other serious diseases, many of which coincide with the most common comorbidities of those who have died from coronavirus.
Both the National Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Medicines Agency have altered their advice for this group in their coronary vaccination guide.
“If you are very frail, you should probably not be vaccinated,” Dr. Madsen said during a webinar on the coronavirus vaccine for journalists on Thursday.
For its part, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that “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.”
A safety report on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine covering all of Europe is slated to be published at the end of January.