At least 23 elderly people have died soon after receiving COVID-19 vaccine in Norway, prompting the Norwegian officials to launch a probe and adjust their advice on who gets the jab.
Norway has reported 23 deaths in connection with the vaccination. All the deaths have occurred in frail, elderly patients in nursing homes. All are over 80 years old and some of them over 90, Norwegian media NRK reported.
Norway launched a mass vaccination campaign at the end of December, with the very oldest citizens and residents of nursing homes being offered vaccination first, including those over the age of 85.
Two Covid-19 vaccines, Comirnaty, from BioNTec/Pfizer, and Moderna, are used in Norway. The vaccines have been developed on mRNA technology and have received temporary approval in the EU, according to the agency.
According to official figures, more than 30,000 people have received the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine in Norway since the end of December.
Overall, Norway has seen 57,279 cases and reported 511 deaths.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency admitted that the studies that form the basis for the temporary approval of the vaccine included very few people over the age of 85, and there is little known about how any side effects will affect these age brackets, but it said, "we assume that the side-effects will largely be the same in the elderly as in those over 65 years of age."
Besides 23 deats, several others have suffered side effects.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency listed fever and nausea as side effects which "may have led to the deaths of some frail patients."
"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, told 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," he added.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health had earlier said that "any side effects of the vaccine will be outweighed by a reduced risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 for elderly, frail people."
It recommendation vaccination "for very frail patients and terminally ill patients," considering a careful balance of benefit versus disadvantage.
(With agency inputs)