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Norway says no link between COVID-19 vaccine and several elderly recipients' deaths

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Norway said Monday no link had been established between Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine and any post-vaccination deaths in the country, but recommended doctors consider the overall health of the most frail before giving them the shot. Since the start of Norway's vaccination campaign at the end of December, the country has registered 33 deaths among elderly people who have received their first dose, according to public health authorities.

"The reports suggest that common adverse reactions to mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, may have contributed to worsening of their underlying diseases and a fatal outcome in some frail patients," the Norwegian Medicines Agency told CBS News' Steve Berriman. "The patients died from their underlying disease."

Of the 13 cases analyzed in detail so far, "they are people of advanced age, are frail and have serious illnesses, all of them," the director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Camilla Stoltenberg, told reporters. "When it comes to causes there hasn't been any analysis done yet," she said.

"It is important to remember that on average about 45 people die every day at nursing homes in Norway, so it's not given that this represents any excess mortality or that they are related to the vaccines," she said.

After the reports of deaths, Norway has stressed that doctors should individually consider whether patients who are frail or terminally ill should receive the vaccine, as is also recommended in some other countries.

"It's not impossible that some of those who have gotten the vaccine are so frail that maybe you should have reconsidered and not given them the vaccine, because they are so sick that they might have become worse from the normal side effects as the body reacts and builds up immunity," Stoltenberg said.

A number of countries, including Norway's neighbors Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Iceland, have reported post-vaccination deaths but no direct links to the vaccine have been established.

Pfizer and BioNTech told CBS News on Monday they were "working with the Norwegian Medicines Agency to gather all the relevant information."

They noted that Norway's vaccination campaign started with the elderly living in care homes, "most of whom are very elderly with underlying medical conditions and some of which are terminally ill."

"Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved families," Pfizer said.

More than 48,000 people have been vaccinated in Norway so far.

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