Singapore

Deaths among elderly in Norway could be isolated incident: Experts

A string of deaths among seniors who were vaccinated against Covid-19 in Norway could be an isolated incident, medical experts here said, adding that the benefits outweigh the risks of vaccination for the elderly.

On Monday, Norwegian health authorities said there is no evidence of a direct link between the deaths and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine they received. This is also the only vaccine approved here so far.

A total of 33 people in Norway aged 75 and older died after getting vaccinated, but all were reported to be already seriously ill prior to getting their shots.

Dr Steinar Madsen, medical director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, told Bloomberg: "We can't say that people die from the vaccine. We can say that it may be coincidental. It is difficult to prove that it's the vaccine which is the direct cause," adding the reported deaths make up "well under one out of 1,000".

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital who has taken the first dose of the vaccine, said the Norwegian case could be an "isolated" one as countries like the United States and Israel have vaccinated significantly more people but have not reported similar findings.

He added it is important to ensure candidates are assessed for vaccination.

In Singapore, the health authorities have advised those with severe allergy to drugs, vaccines or food not to take the vaccine, he said, adding that some of the deaths in Norway are associated with allergic reactions.

Doctors interviewed said the potential consequences of a Covid-19 infection for seniors far outweigh the risks from the vaccine's side effects. This is as seniors are particularly vulnerable to complications from Covid-19 and are at a much higher risk of hospitalisation and death if they are infected, compared with younger people.

Professor Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at the infectious diseases division of National University Hospital, said: "The best advice I can give is to talk to your general practitioner or primary healthcare doctor.

"He or she will be able to provide you with the latest data from reliable sources and advise you on the risks versus benefits and the optimal timing for vaccination." - THE STRAITS TIMES

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