The number of deaths reported to Medsafe following a Covid jab has risen to 94 -but only one has been linked to the vaccination.
That case was the death of a woman who was likely to have suffered from vaccine-induced myocarditis and has been previously reported. The Coroner is yet to make a final determination on the actual cause of death.
The deaths are among 32,372 adverse events – 1,125 of which were serious – that have were reported to Medsafe since Pfizer vaccinations began being administered in New Zealand earlier this year.
Just over 6.6 million doses have been given so far with an average of 49 out of every 10,000 people reporting an adverse event.
The report, which is updated each Wednesday, shows that the vast majority of adverse reactions were deemed non-serious and the five most common reactions were dizziness, headache, pain at the injection site, lethargy and nausea.
Of the deaths, 41 are deemed to be unlikely to have been related to the vaccine. Ten are still under investigation and 42 could not be assessed due to insufficient information provided.
While the numbers may sound alarming, vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said people shouldn’t read anything into them as they are just numbers with no context.
“Don’t look at that and get scared because it doesn’t mean the vaccination caused it.”
She said the reports were simply people reporting something that happened after a vaccination – not proof that it was caused by the vaccination.
With deaths in particular Petousis-Harris said it was important to remember people die for various reasons, including natural and medical causes, every day and while some people might be quick to link that to a recent vaccination it may well have been a sad coincidence.
Of the 94 deaths, two were in people aged between 10 and 29 years. One of those cases was the death of a 17-year-old St Mary’s schoolgirl from Auckland.
Rumours quickly spread that she died as a result of having the vaccination but that was ruled out by the Covid-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board that reviewed the case.
“It was the opinion of the Board, with the current information available to it, that the cause of death was unlikely related to the administration of the vaccine.”
The exact cause of her death is still being investigated, including whether a medication the teen was on was involved.
Petousis-Harris said a lot of people talk about knowing someone who has had a severe reaction, or even died, and rumours spread quickly, despite there being no real link.
An example was the death of 21-year-old Liam Ranby which was widely rumoured to have happened after he was vaccinated – despite him not having had the vaccine.
Many people were also quick to link the sudden death last week of a 40-year-old Covid-positive man who was isolating at home to the vaccine. The death has been referred to the Coroner to determine whether it was virus related, but authorities say it had nothing to do with the vaccination.
“There has been speculation this death was vaccine-related but we can confirm it was not,” officials said on Thursday.
READ MORE: The 10 biggest vaccine myths debunked
Petousis-Harris urged people wanting to know more about the safety of the vaccine before making a decision to not base it off the numbers in the Adverse Events report.
Medsafe itself says the same thing at the top of the report.
A spokesperson told the Herald anyone who experiences a reaction is encouraged to report it, even if they aren’t sure if it was linked.
But, as a result, that meant not all of the reported events will be related to the vaccine.
“A death in the days following vaccination can be coincidental.When a large number of people are being vaccinated, including elderly people and those with significant long-term health issues, there is a high probability that some people will die coincidentally after their vaccination.”
The spokesperson said Medsafe, Carm and the Covid-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB) review all reports following death to consider if there is a link to the vaccination, but that was different from an investigation into the cause of death, which is up to a coroner to determine.
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What you need to know about Adverse Events and how they are investigated
Are all adverse events in the report caused by the vaccination?
No. Anyone who experiences a reaction following vaccination is encouraged to report it to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (Carm). Anyone can make these reports and you don’t have to be certain that the reaction was caused by the vaccine.
What happens once I report a reaction?
Carm and Medsafe investigate reports of significant events, such as a death. Because anyone can make the report the first part of the process is verifying if there is a person who has had a vaccination and a reaction and that they can be contacted about it. Any report that doesn’t meet these criteria is deemed invalid and is not further investigated. Relevant healthcare professionals are then contacted for more information about the person and the reaction or death. In the case of a death the coroner or pathologist will also be contacted for more information. The Covid-19 Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB) reviews the information obtained during the investigation into any serious case and provides its view on the likely relationship of the reported events to vaccination. They do not however establish cause of death, just whether the vaccine is believed to have had any relationship to it.
Why are so many cases unable to be assessed due to insufficient information? Won’t the autopsy prove if the vaccination was linked?
Not all causes of death can be found on autopsy – for example, a heart rhythm problem does not leave a physical trace in the body that can be identified on autopsy. Sometimes no one knows if there were any reactions before the death so it’s difficult to know if there were side effects beforehand or if they may have been linked to the vaccination.
What does the observed v expected deaths mean in the report?
This compares the number of vaccinated people who died in the 21 days after they received their jab with the average number of deaths in previous years over the same time frame (our natural death rate). This part of the report is updated monthly and the most recent data, as of July 31, shows .56 times the expected number of deaths. In other words, the number of deaths in those vaccinated is around half the expected number, showing that the vaccine has had no effect on death rates. The next update on these numbers is due in two weeks.
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