Norway adjusts advice for elderly and frail people after COVID-19 vaccine deaths

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By Euronews  with AP
Svein Andersen was the first in Norway to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the capital Oslo, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020.
Svein Andersen was the first in Norway to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the capital Oslo, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020.   -  Copyright  Fredrik Hagen/NTB via AP

Norwegian officials have adjusted their advice on who should receive COVID-19 vaccines following a small number of deaths in older and frail people.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency reported on Thursday that 13 people who got a dose of the vaccine died shortly after suffering side effects. That amounts to just 0.04 percent of the more than 30,000 people who have been given the jab across Norway in recent weeks.

All the deaths occurred among patients in nursing homes, and all were over the age of 80.

The agency listed fever and nausea as side effects which “may have led to the deaths of some frail patients,” it said in a report.

Regulators are now leaving it up to each doctor to consider who should be vaccinated.

“What we say is that if you have patients who are very frail, very sick, and they have a short remaining lifespan, you should do some extra evaluation of the appropriateness of vaccinating these patients,” Steinar Madsen, chief physician at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, told Euronews.

He said the agency expected to see some deaths linked to vaccinations within nursing homes but noted that the fatalities were “very, very rare” and most had occurred in very frail people with severe pre-existing conditions.

In its report, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said a total of 29 people had suffered side effects from COVID-19 vaccination -- 21 women and eight men.

Besides those who died, the agency said nine had serious side effects that did not have fatal consequences and seven had less serious side effects.

These nine patients had allergic reactions, strong discomfort and severe fever, while the less serious side effects included severe pain at the injection site.

Across the world, officials expect deaths and other severe side effects to be reported after any mass vaccination campaign given the huge numbers of people involved.

But determining whether or not the vaccine caused deaths can be very challenging and requires that all other potential causes be ruled out first.

Watch the interview with Steinar Madsen in the video player above.