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Norwegian authorities concerned about Pfizer vaccine after 29 die, Australia seeking answers

Christian Fernsby |
Norway has expressed its concern about the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for elderly people with underlying health conditions, after the death of 29 people.

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42,000 people have received the first shot of the vaccine in the country so far, with Norway focusing on groups deemed as the most at-risk of contracting the virus, including senior citizens.

As such, the Norwegian Medicines Agency has suggested that COVID-19 vaccines might have too much risk for the elderly and terminally ill, according to a press release.

"23 deaths associated with covid-19 vaccination of which 13 have been assessed. Common adverse reactions may have contributed to a severe course in elderly people who are frail," the agency said but the reports are there are now 29 deaths.

"The reports suggest that common adverse reactions to mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients, says Sigurd Hortemo, chief physician at the Norwegian Medicines Agency

"The large studies on Comirnaty (BioNTec/Pfizer) did not include patients with unstable or acute illness - and included few participants over 85 years of age. In Norway we are now vaccinating the elderly and people in nursing homes with serious underlying diseases, therefore it is expected that deaths close to the time vaccination may occur. In Norway, an average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

"All deaths that occur within the first few days of vaccination are carefully assessed. We cannot rule out that adverse reactions to the vaccine occurring within the first days following vaccination (such as fever and nausea) may contribute to more serious course and fatal outcome in patients with severe underlying disease."

Australian authorities are seeking more information about one of the COVID-19 vaccines set to be used locally, following a warning from officials in Norway.

Australia has ordered 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he had "immediately sought" more details.

"I have been in contact with the Australian medical regulator, the [Therapeutic Goods Administration] TGA, this morning and requested that they seek additional information, both from the company, but also from the Norwegian medical regulator," he said.

"[Foreign Minister] Marise Payne will task [the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] DFAT to seek advice directly from the Norwegian Government.

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