The woman died from myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle wall – following a dose of the jab, New Zealand’s Independent Safety Monitoring Board said on Monday.
In a statement, the board said: “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”.
Although the statement said that other medical conditions were involved, the board determined the woman’s myocarditis was “probably due to vaccination”.
No additional details, including the woman’s age, have been released as it has been referred to a coroner for further investigation.
Myocarditis, a condition which causes chest pain, shortness of breath and an abnormal heartbeat, is known to be a rare side effect of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – anyone experiencing these conditions in the days following vaccination is urged to seek medical attention promptly.
While health agencies around the world have recognised the risk associated with the vaccine, they continue to endorse the vaccine as the benefits of protection against Covid-19 continue to outweigh the dangers posed by rare instances of severe side effects.
An Israel-based study found that although the Pfizer jab was associated with a risk of myocarditis, being infected with Covid leads to an even higher risk of the heart condition. Scientists found that myocarditis occurred at a rate of 2.7 cases per 100,000 people who received the vaccine – which is higher than in populations that did not receive a Pfizer vaccine – but significantly lower than the 11 cases per 100,000 people who contract the virus.
In the UK, as of 26 August, there have been 195 reports of myocarditis following vaccination with the Pfizer Covid vaccine, with an overall reporting rate of around 5 cases of the condition per million doses administered.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency found the condition occurs more frequently in young men following their second dose of the vaccine but says that reports of the condition are “extremely rare” and “typically mild” with individuals recovering within a short time.
Similarly, the European Medicines Agency has found myocarditis to be a “very rare” side effect of both Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines, but continues to urge people to get vaccinated to prevent serious illness and ongoing spread of the virus.
Despite the vaccine-related death in New Zealand, the country’s vaccine safety monitoring board continues to encourage New Zealanders to get vaccinated.
“The benefits of vaccination with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine continue to greatly outweigh the risk of both Covid-19 and vaccine side effects, including myocarditis,” the board said.
Adding: “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”.
New Zealand remains under a country-wide lockdown that is set to ease on Tuesday, as it is experiencing a spike in the Delta variant with 560 active cases.
Since the pandemic began, New Zealand has recorded 3,456 Covid cases and 26 deaths. Three million vaccine doses have been administered to date in its vaccine rollout campaign, and around 23 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.
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