Norwegian health officials say that the COVID-19 vaccine may be "too risky" for coronavirus patients over 80 and the terminally ill, according to a Friday Bloomberg report.
What are the details?
According to the report, at least 23 people have died across the country a short time after receiving just the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, prompting experts to wonder if the shot is safe for the elderly and the terminally ill.
Citing the country's medicines agency, Bloomberg reported, "Of those deaths, 13 so far [have] been autopsied, with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people."
In a statement, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health explained, "For those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences. For those who have a very short remaining life span anyway, the benefit of the vaccine may be marginal or irrelevant."
At the time of this reporting, the outlet estimated that Norway has administered at least one dose to approximately 33,000 people.
'We are not alarmed by this'
The Washington Post reported that the government, despite the deaths, is not worried.
Steinar Madsen, medical director for the Norwegian Medicines Agency, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the country's experts are "not alarmed by this."
"It is quite clear that these vaccines have very little risk, with a small exception for the frailest patients," Madsen added. "Doctors must now carefully consider who should be vaccinated. Those who are very frail and at the very end of life can be vaccinated after an individual assessment."
Representatives for Pfizer and BioNTech have yet to issue public remarks on the news at the time of this reporting.
'Developed in haste'
Following the news, the Global Times reported that Chinese health experts are calling on Norway to suspend the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the elderly.
The outlet reported that the mRNA vaccine was "developed in haste and had never been used on a large scale for the prevention of infectious disease." As such, the Times notes, "its safety had not been confirmed for large-scale use in humans."
The vaccine has received only temporary approval in the EU.
Yang Zhanqiu, a virologist from Wuhan University, told the outlet on Friday that the deaths, if caused by the vaccines, show that the effects of the vaccines are not as good as expected.
"A Beijing-based immunologist, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Friday that the world should suspend the use of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine represented by Pfizer, as this new technology has not proven safety in large-scale use or in preventing any infectious diseases," the outlet reported. "Older people, especially those over 80, should not be recommended to receive any COVID-19 vaccine, he said."