Three deaths have been reported in Iceland among individuals who had received a COVID-19 vaccine, RÚV reports. All three individuals were elderly nursing home residents with underlying illnesses. Rúna Hauksdóttir Hvannberg, director of the Icelandic Medicines Agency says there is no evidence of a causal link between the vaccinations and deaths, but they will be investigated nonetheless.
Iceland began vaccinating for COVID-19 on December 29, and 4,917 healthcare workers and nursing home residents received their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine just before the new year. Rúna pointed out that these first doses were administered to some of the oldest and most ill members of the population, many of which have underlying illnesses. In such cases, it is often impossible to find a causal link between vaccination and side effects, and according to Rúna, the chance the deaths were connected to the vaccine was negligible.
“It is not certain that this is a side effect of the drug, not at all, that there is a causal link to it,” Rúna stated. “But it is important to report it so it is reviewed because there is a causal relationship in time. Even though these are individuals who are elderly and with underlying illnesses. So it is very important to gather this information.”
The Icelandic Medicines Agency has since received 16 reports of side effects from the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, ten of which were among healthcare workers. Ten of the 16 reported only mild side effects. All of the reports have been passed on to the European Medicines Agency.
Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason echoed Rúna’s statements. “One must remember that here we were vaccinating the most ill and oldest members of our society, who are infirm and have chronic illnesses,” Þórólfur stated. “There are a number of things that can impact them that are not connected to vaccination in the case of our most ill people.” The Chief Epidemiologist added: “The proportion of people who died in large-scale trials, where tens of thousands were vaccinated, was lower than the control group where people were not vaccinated.”