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New Zealand reports first death linked to Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine

  • Published at 12:24 pm August 30th, 2021
A small shopping basket filled with vials labelled 'Covid-19 - Coronavirus Vaccine' and a medical syringe are placed on a Pfizer logo Reuters

Pfizer said it  recognized there could be rare reports of myocarditis after vaccinations, but such side effects were extremely rare

New Zealand reported its first recorded death linked to US drugmaker Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, the health ministry said on Monday, after a woman suffered a rare side effect leading to inflammation of her heart muscle.

The news of the death comes as the country battles an outbreak of the Delta variant after nearly six months of being virus-free. It followed a review by an independent panel monitoring the safety of the vaccines.

"This is the first case in New Zealand where a death in the days following vaccination has been linked to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine," the ministry said in a statement, without giving the woman's age.

The vaccine monitoring panel attributed the death to myocarditis, a rare, but known, side effect of the Pfizer vaccine, the ministry added.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can limit the organ's ability to pump blood and can cause changes in heartbeat rhythms.

In response, Pfizer said it  recognized there could be rare reports of myocarditis after vaccinations, but such side effects were extremely rare.

File photo: The normally bustling High Street in Auckland’s CBD is largely deserted during a lockdown to curb the spread of a Covid-19 outbreak, in Auckland, New Zealand, August 26, 2021 | Reuters

"Pfizer takes adverse events that are potentially associated with our vaccine very seriously," it told Reuters.

"We closely monitor all such events and collect relevant information to share with worldwide regulatory authorities."

The health ministry said other medical issues at the same time could have influenced the outcome after vaccination.

But the vaccine's benefit outstripped risks from side effects, it added.

"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."

New Zealand has provisionally approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines, but only the Pfizer produced vaccine has been approved for rollout to the public.

Monday's 53 new cases took New Zealand's tally of infections in the current outbreak to 562, amid a nationwide lockdown enforced this month to limit the spread of the Delta variant.