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Deaths of two people who had Covid vaccine reported to NZ's medicines safety centre; no direct link established

The deaths of two people who had been given a Covid-19 vaccination have been officially reported to New Zealand's medicines safety centre.

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But medicine staff involved consider there to be no link to the vaccine. Source: 1 NEWS

The Ministry of Health has told 1 NEWS it is aware of the deaths of the two people, believed to be in their 80s, who received the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, however no direct link between the vaccine and their deaths has been established.

While medical staff involved consider the deaths to be unrelated to the vaccine they are being officially reported "through an abundance of caution", the ministry said.

The deaths are being reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring which means Medsafe will "closely" monitor the official reports.

"Our sincere sympathy to their families and friends who are grieving their loss," the Ministry of Health told 1 NEWS.

It is not known when the two people were given the vaccine, or how long it was after receiving the injection they died.

The Ministry of Health also said in all cases, a prompt report would be made if there was any indication of a serious health concern.

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist from the University of Auckland, told 1 NEWS that reports of events like this are to be expected during the rollout of the vaccine, but there is no reason to worry.

“At the moment there is nothing to suggest there is anything to be concerned about,” she said.

She notes that hundreds of millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been given out globally, and there is “no suggestion that this vaccine actually causes people to die”.

“We are going to vaccinate as many people as we can in a population; we’re going to see a lot of things happening by chance. This is expected.”

What is the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring?

The centre, also known as CARM, works with New Zealand medicines regulator Medsafe to monitor the safety of all medicines, including vaccines.

The centre is based in Dunedin and is the national centre for information about adverse reactions.

Anyone is able to report an adverse event.

The Ministry of Health told 1 NEWS it believes the vaccine is sound.

"We remain confident the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective," it said.

The ministry said Medsafe is "closely monitoring" all adverse reactions reported after using the vaccine.

What does the latest data show?

Information on reports of adverse reaction is about one month out of date.

This is because of the need for staff to follow up on some of the events and make sure information is accurate before it is published.

The latest information published last Wednesday is the most up to date report and covers up to to April 3rd.

There were seven serious adverse reaction cases and 196 non-serious cases reported in the latest update.

Six of the serious cases were allergic reactions which were "managed appropriately", while the other was a case of chest discomfort and a fast heart rate.

Just two reports of adverse reactions were noted for the 80+ age group, after being given a first dose.

Latest Ministry of Health data shows more than 300,000 doses have been given.