Interesting headline… do we see the same for covid deaths?
Vaccine or virus?
Clinicians have been warned of the dangers of a rare side-effect after a woman, with other medical issues, died following a Covid-19 vaccination.
The Covid-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB) investigated the woman’s death and found it was due to myocarditis, which is known to be a rare? side-effect of the Pfizer vaccine, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Tuesday.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle wall. There are many possible causes of myocarditis – the most common is viral infection – and more than 100 people get hospital treatment for it in New Zealand every year.
The coroner still needs to rule on the case and the cause of death. The CV-ISMB believed the myocarditis was probably due to vaccination. The board also noted there were “medical issues occurring at the same time which may have influenced the outcome following vaccination”.
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More than 3.3 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been distributed in New Zealand. This is the first case in New Zealand where a death in the days after vaccination has been linked to the vaccine. There have been 3400 cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand and 26 deaths related to the virus.
An Israeli study has found myocarditis occurred in 2.7 per 100,000 persons vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine. The same study found that the risk of myocarditis with COVID-19 was 4 times higher (11.0 per 100,000 persons infected).
While the Centre for Adverse Reactions had received other reports of deaths in someone recently vaccinated, none were considered to be related to vaccination.
The benefits of the vaccine still greatly outweighed any risks and side-effects, including myocarditis, Dr John Tait, who is the chair of the CV-ISMB, said.
“The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective in protecting against serious illness and death from Covid-19, and we remain confident about using it in New Zealand.”
The board would ensure the outcomes of its investigation were widely available for others to learn from and it would be published to increase the scientific knowledge about vaccine-induced myocarditis, he added.
The board had also advised the Ministry of Health to ensure healthcare professionals and consumers remained vigilant, and were aware of the signs of myocarditis and another condition pericarditis.
Dr Bryan Betty, medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, said that as with all medication, some people would experience side-effects.
“We have seen today’s sad news about the death of a woman from myocarditis a month ago and while this is a very rare side-effect, it is no less devastating for her family.
“The message from health professionals is still the same; as a country we need to keep vaccinating to stop the virus.”
The high numbers of people keen to be vaccinated showed they wanted to protect themselves and their community against the virus, he added.
Associate Professor James Ussher, of the University of Otago, said this was one of the first deaths of its kind following a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
“Hundreds of millions of doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered globally. To date, the vast majority of cases of myocarditis following vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have been mild, with resolution of both symptoms and inflammation with anti-inflammatories.
“The benefits of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 far outweigh the risks, with recent data from the United States showing a massive 25-fold reduction in the risk of hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 in vaccinated individuals.”
As many as 1.16 million people have now been fully vaccinated, that is 23 per cent of the population and 26 per cent of eligible people aged 12 and over. About 43 per cent of the population, 2.18 million, have had at least one dose, which is 48 per cent of the eligible population.
Last month, Medsafe issued a safety alert on myocarditis to raise awareness of this recently identified side-effect to the Pfizer vaccine.
Symptoms of myocarditis can include new onset chest pain, shortness of breath and an abnormal heartbeat.
It is important that anyone who experiences these symptoms in the first few days after vaccination seeks medical attention promptly.
The case has been referred to the coroner.
As reported on in Stuff’s vaccine myth-busting project The Whole Truth, the vaccines were subject to rigorous testing before approval and continued monitoring.