Norway updates COVID-19 vaccination guide following deaths of ‘frail’ elderly

Published : January 16, 2021 15:26 IST

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine before being administered. (file photo) Photo: Nathan Denette/AP Photo: AP

Some 23 deaths of elderly people after taking the COVID vaccine jab, have made Norwegian authorities update their advisories. The Norwegian Medicines Agency and the National Institute of Public Health jointly assessed such reported cases. The country’s COVID-19 vaccination guide now contains more ‘detailed advice’ on vaccinating frail elderly, who may be more prone to side effects of mRNA vaccines.

In a press release issued recently, the Norwegian Medicines Agency quoted its chief physician Sigurd Hortemo as stating that “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.” It attributed these findings to the fact that “the large studies on Comirnaty (BioNTech/Pfizer) did not include patients with unstable or acute illness… included few participants over 85 years of age.” He added: “We are not alarmed by this… It is quite clear that these vaccines have very little risk, with a small exception for the frailest patients.”

Steinar Madsen, Medical Director with the Agency, was quoted telling Norwegian broadcaster NRK, “Doctors must now carefully consider who should be vaccinated… Those who are very frail and at the very end of life can be vaccinated after an individual assessment.”

A Pfizer representative, according to a report in the New York Post, told the media that the pharmaceutical giant is “aware of [such] reported deaths”, adding that it is working with Norwegian authorities in collecting and assessing relevant information in the matter.

Norway is currently vaccinating the elderly and those in nursing homes with serious co-morbidities, and it is therefore expected that ‘deaths close to the time of vaccination’ can occur, the release added. The Agency said that while the country sees an average of 400 people losing their lives each week at its care facilities, all deaths occurring soon after a jab of the vaccine are carefully assessed.