The report that 23 people died in Norway within days of receiving their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was all over the news. What actually happened is a little different from the headline.
All of the deaths were in frail, elderly patients in nursing homes. Sadly, each week in Norway 400 or so people die in nursing homes, so deaths are not unexpected.
Only 13 of the 23 deaths were even suspected to be related to side effects of the vaccine. Of these, most were common reactions to the vaccine, including fever and nausea. These reactions, “may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients,” Sigurd Hortemo, chief physician at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, said in a Friday statement but none was definitively causing death.
All 13 were also at least 80 years old. Reports are stating, “officials aren’t expressing serious concern, but are adjusting their guidance on who should receive the vaccine.“ Not sure what this means!
More than 30,000 people in Norway have received the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine since late last month, according to official figures. Given this, the rate of reactions is not different from anywhere else.
“We are not alarmed by this,” Steinar Madsen, medical director with the agency, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “It is quite clear that these vaccines have very little risk, with a small exception for the frailest patients.”
“Doctors must now carefully consider who should be vaccinated,” he added. “Those who are very frail and at the very end of life can be vaccinated after an individual assessment.” Ok, I would agree with this and unfortunately any intervention could end these peoples lives!
Yes, it is a good idea to make sure elderly individuals are well hydrated and able to deal with nausea or low grade fevers before receiving the vaccine. They should also be monitored and treated if it occurs. This is just as they are evaluated for their ability to do exercise or any other activity!
Nothing an 80 year old individual does is without risk, and most of them understand this well!