New Zealand has recorded its first death linked to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine after a woman suffered heart muscle inflammation as a side effect, says the health ministry.
The vaccine monitoring panel attributed the woman’s death to myocarditis, a known side effect of the Pfizer vaccine. The board said that the myocarditis “was probably due to vaccination,” although other medical issues cannot be ruled out, which may have influenced the outcome after the vaccination.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, limiting its ability to pump blood and cause changes in heartbeat rhythms.
Pfizer also said that it recognised that there could be reports of this illness after vaccination, although it insisted that such side effects were rare. The company said that it takes adverse events associated with its vaccine very seriously.
However, they also claimed: “The benefits of vaccination with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continue to greatly outweigh the risk of both COVID-19 infection and vaccine side effects, including myocarditis”. Perhaps they could say that to the faces of the womans family?
Regulators in the United Kingdom, United States, the European Union, and the World Health Organisation have all said that mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech as well as those by Moderna are associated with rare cases of myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart), but claim that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks.
Symptoms of myocarditis include new-onset chest pain, shortness of breath, and abnormal heartbeat. It is important that those who experience these symptoms in the first few days after vaccination seek medical attention as soon as possible.
New Zealand has provisionally approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines; however, the Pfizer vaccine remains to be the only one approved for public rollout. There had been over three million doses given so far, mostly to individuals over 50.
“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,” said Dr. John Tait, chair of the Covid-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board.
He also added that the board would ensure that the outcome of its investigation will be widely available for others to learn from. He noted that it would be published to increase scientific knowledge about vaccine-induced myocarditis.
Further, the board advised the Ministry of Health to ensure healthcare professionals and consumers remain vigilant and aware of the signs of myocarditis and pericarditis.