Norway expressed increasing concern about the safety of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine on elderly people with serious underlying health conditions after raising an estimate of the number who died after receiving inoculations to 29.
The latest figure adds six to the number of known fatalities in Norway, and lowers the age group thought to be affected to 75 from 80. While it’s unclear exactly when the deaths occurred, Norway has given at least one dose to about 42,000 people and focused on those considered most at risk if they contract the virus, including the elderly.
Until 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 said in a written response to Bloomberg on Saturday.
“There are 13 deaths that have been assessed, and we are aware of another 16 deaths that are currently being assessed,” the agency said. All the reported deaths related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders,” it 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.”
Official reports of allergic reactions have been rare as governments rush to roll out vaccines to try to contain the global pandemic. U.S. authorities reported 21 cases of severe allergic reactions from Dec. 14-23 after administration of about 1.9 million initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The first Europe-wide safety report on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is due to be published at the end of January.
Australia, which has an agreement for 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, is seeking urgent information on the issue from the producer, health authorities and Norway’s government, Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration will seek “additional information, both from the company, but also from the Norwegian medical regulator,” Hunt said. Australia’s foreign ministry will also contact its counterpart in Norway on the issue.