Health

Norway reports deaths related to COVID-19 vaccination

Situation not alarming, only ‘small exception’ affected by Pfizer mRNA vaccine: Medical director of Norwegian Medicines Agency

 
By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 15 January 2021
Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Norway has reported 23 deaths related to vaccination against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Thirteen of the deaths have been assessed, Statens Legemiddelverk (Norwegian Agency for Medicines) said January 14, 2021.

“All reports of deaths after vaccination are carefully considered,” the agency said on its website.

More than 25,000 people have been vaccinated in the Scandinavian country since the drive began on December 27, 2020. Pfizer Inc’s mRNA [messenger Ribonucleic acid]-based vaccines were used in the concerned cases.

The agency has mapped side effects and has completed 29 reports, state-run broadcaster NRK reported January 14.

“Of those, there are 13 deaths, nine serious side effects and seven less serious side effects,” it reported citing Steinar Madsen, medical director of Norwegian Medicines Agency (NMA).

The casualties were all among the “frail” — those with advanced heart conditions, dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other serious diseases — old, aged at least 80 and some more than 90 years. Severe side effects like “fever and malaise” seem to affect some, Madsen reportedly said.

Doctors should be careful with vaccination and take calls for those very old after individual assessments, he added.

He said the situation was not alarming and the vaccines have little risk with a “small exception for the most frail”. His agency will issue weekly reports.

The news, however, prompted adverse commentary in China. Global Times, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, published unnamed “health experts” as exhorting Norway and other countries to shun mRNA-based vaccines for the lack of safety standards.

Pfizer and United States federal health officials are probing the death of one vaccine recipient, news agency Bloomberg reported January 13.

Apart from Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty, the vaccine candidate by Moderna also uses an mRNA platform. These are “coated molecules of mRNA, similar to DNA [Deoxyribonucleic acid], that carry the instructions for making a viral protein”.

As Archa Fox of University of Western Australia has explained earlier:

After injection into muscle, the mRNA is taken up by cells. Ribosomes, the cell’s protein factories, read the mRNA instructions and make the viral protein. These new proteins are exported from cells and the rest of the immunisation process is identical to other vaccines: our immune system mounts a response by recognising the proteins as foreign and developing antibodies against them.

These need to be stored at extremely low temperatures: -70 degree Celsius for Pfizer’s and -20°C for Moderna’s.

None of the two vaccines are part of India’s countrywide vaccination drive that starts January 16.

 

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