Home / News / World /  Covid-19 vaccine may be risky for elderly, says Norway after 23 die. What we know so far

Authorities in Norway launched a probe into the death of 23 people who passed away shortly after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19. Several others have also fallen sick soon after getting vaccinated.

Pfizer and BioNTech are working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths and said that the number is not alarming "and in line with expectations".

Norway has given at least one dose to about 33,000 people, focusing on those considered to be most at risk if they contract the virus, including the elderly. The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine approved late last year has been used most broadly, with a similar shot from Moderna Inc. approved earlier this month also now being administered.

Key updates about Norway's COVID-19 vaccine drive:

Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for elderly

Norway said Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for the very old and terminally ill, the most cautious statement yet from a European health authority as countries assess the real-world side effects of the first shots to gain approval.

Allergic reactions of COVID-19 vaccine

Of 29 cases of potential side effects investigated by Norwegian authorities, almost three-quarters were in people age 80 or older.

What do the autopsies say?

Among the deaths, 13 have been autopsied, with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Should you avoid the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said for those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences. But that does not mean younger, healthier people should avoid being vaccinated.

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine side-effects

In the 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 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. That’s an incidence of 11.1 cases per million doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 inoculation in Europe:

Though both Covid-19 vaccines approved so far in Europe were tested in tens of thousands of people —5 including volunteers in their late 80s and 90s — the average trial participant was in his or her early 50s. The first people to be immunized in many places have been older than that as countries rush to inoculate nursing-home residents at high risk from the virus.

Safety report of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Europe

The first Europe-wide safety report on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will probably be published at the end of January, Norwegian health regulator’s key medicines committee said on Friday. Vaccine makers are required to submit data monthly.

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