Norway will not change its policy for using Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine after very fragile recipients die, but officials said health workers should properly assess patients before deciding to give them the vaccine .
As of January 14, 23 reports of deaths suspected of being associated with COVID-19 vaccines had been submitted to the Norwegian health register.
Of the 13 cases analyzed in detail so far, those affected were elderly, frail and seriously ill, Camilla Stoltenberg, director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), told reporters on Monday.
“It is important to remember that around 45 people die every day in nursing homes in Norway, so it is not certain that this represents excess mortality or that there is a causal link,” he said. she declared.
Stoltenberg reiterated that the FHI’s guidelines for administering the vaccine have remained the same, saying doctors should consider the overall health of their patients before administering the vaccine to them.
“We should have everyone’s assessment before offering the vaccine,” she said.
But, she added: “It is not impossible that some of those who received the vaccine are so fragile that you might have had to reconsider and not give them the vaccine because they are so sick that ‘they could have gotten worse from normal side effects. as the body responds and builds immunity. “
The news of the deaths had sounded alarm bells about the safety of the vaccine.
BioNTech had previously said that Norwegian health authorities had changed their recommendation for vaccination of terminally ill patients.
But the company later retracted its statement following clarification from Norway. Pfizer did not comment immediately.
Norway’s death toll from the pandemic currently stands at 521, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“Very rare occurrences”
Norway is currently vaccinating residents of nursing homes, including those with serious underlying problems.
On average, 400 people die every week in retirement homes and long-term care facilities in the Nordic country.
Common side effects of messenger RNA vaccines – such as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – include fever, nausea, and diarrhea.
A number of countries, including neighbors Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, have also reported post-vaccination deaths, but no direct link to the vaccine has been established.
To date, more than 48,000 people have been vaccinated in Norway.
PM eases restrictions
Norway had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe during the pandemic, imposing tighter restrictions earlier than in many other countries.
The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days was 157.95 in the week ending January 10, the fifth lowest in Europe behind Iceland, Greece, Bulgaria and Finland, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Monday announced the easing of some coronavirus restrictions after additional measures put in place for two weeks appeared to have produced the desired effect by slowing transmission.
But Solberg stressed that infection rates remain too high for comfort.
“Although the measures seem to be working and infection rates are somewhat lower, the situation is still uncertain,” she told parliament. “Infection rates are still too high, but with joint efforts we can reduce the spread.”