Aussies told not to worry about vaccine

Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy still thinks the Pfizer vaccine "will be OK" despite a spate of deaths in Norway, but concedes Australians will have to "wait and see".

Norwegian authorities have confirmed at least 29 elderly recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine died after taking the jab.

Australia has an agreement for 10 million doses of the Pfizer jab, which were set to be rolled out from mid-February.

The first recipients were set to include the elderly, but the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) is now urgently seeking clarification on the reports.

 

It said early indications suggested the victims were extremely frail or suffering from a terminal illness.

But Professor Murphy, Australia's chief medical officer at the beginning of the pandemic, stressed the group were "very, very old and frail".

"I'm not unduly concerned. We're trying to get more information about it," he told the ABC.

"It's not clear how directly related to the deaths it was. The TGA is looking at this information. The TGA will look at that with its registration.

"We've always taken the view that we needed a diversified vaccine tragedy.

"I still think that the Pfizer vaccine will be OK, but I think we have to wait and see."

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham played down the fear over the reports, saying a review of the Pfizer vaccine in the US showed "very positive results" on its safety and effectiveness.

Brendan Murphy still thinks the Pfizer vaccine will ‘be OK’ but Australians will ‘wait and see’. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Brendan Murphy still thinks the Pfizer vaccine will ‘be OK’ but Australians will ‘wait and see’. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

"Individual reports can always be concerning, but we do have to keep them in perspective as well of letting the experts do the job," he told ABC radio on Monday.

"All of that evidence will be looked at by the TGA, and Australia can just be very thankful that our positive health management of COVID to date means we don't have to rush these things, and we are able to go through the proper processes."

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Sunday the government was seeking more information on the deaths but said there was no change to its rollout time frame.

All victims were over 80 and had "serious basic disorders", Bloomberg reports the Norwegian Medicines Agency as saying.

They died after complications from side-effects of the vaccine, including nausea and fever.

The government is seeking clarification on the reports just weeks before the Pfizer vaccine was due to be rolled out in Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw
The government is seeking clarification on the reports just weeks before the Pfizer vaccine was due to be rolled out in Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw

CSIRO health and biosecurity director Rob Grenfell said while the deaths may seem "disturbing", they were normal in phase four study for any drug.

He said the reports vindicated Australia's cautious approach.

"Anyone in an aged care facility is usually very frail and also has multiple illnesses. What needs to be sorted out from these cases is: were these deaths related to, caused by, or have no relation whatsoever to the vaccine that they were given?" Dr Grenfell told Today.

"It may be that there may be one of those three combinations. Our TGA our regulator will be sorting through that and may issue warnings to practitioners here in Australia when it's released."

People over 50 should consider they faced a 20 per cent chance of hospitalisation if they contracted COVID-19, he said.

Millions of Europeans have already received the Pfizer vaccine, with the elderly prioritised due to higher mortality rates.

Originally published as Aussies told not to worry about vaccine



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