Why vaccinating frail elderly is being investigated further after Norwegian experiences | NOW

On Friday it was announced that the pharmacovigilance committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is investigating whether there is a relationship between the death of frail elderly and corona vaccination. What is the reason for this investigation? And what is the advice for this group of elderly people?

On January 11, the Norwegian counterpart of the RIVM, the FHI, adjusted its corona vaccination advice for the most vulnerable elderly. In elderly people who are terminally ill and those who are so weak that their life expectancy is still very short, it is recommended to carefully consider whether the benefits of protection against COVID-19 outweigh the possible disadvantages of vaccination.

Concerns about known side effects

The amendment follows reports of elderly people in nursing homes who died shortly after vaccination. According to the Norwegian medicines agency, the vaccination of thirteen frail elderly may have played a role in their deaths.

The side effects that Norwegians are concerned about are already known side effects, such as fever and nausea. Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian medicines agency, explained to it British Medical Journal explains that these side effects are harmless for most people, but that they can pose a risk to people with very fragile health.

Further research in Norway

Madsen previously told the Norwegian newspaper VG that in Norwegian nursing homes, an average of 350 to 400 people per week die. It is therefore to be expected that nursing home residents will also die after vaccination, without the vaccine playing a role.

Whether the vaccine itself contributed to death in some elderly people is now being further investigated in Norway and by the PRAC pharmacovigilance committee, which is part of the EMA.

Advice to the elderly

For the vast majority of Norwegian elderly, the warning issued by the FHI does not apply. The Norwegian Health Authority expects that for most elderly people the benefits of protection against COVID-19 will outweigh the risk of any side effects. According to the FHI, the vaccine is therefore also safe for elderly people with stable chronic diseases, such as diabetes.

The vaccine is also not entirely discouraged for the very fragile elderly. The pros and cons of vaccination should only be extra carefully considered in this group.

In the Netherlands there is no warning against vaccinating very frail elderly. If the PRAC pharmacovigilance committee finds indications that there is a relationship between the death of frail elderly and vaccination, the Netherlands will probably also receive a warning or, for example, an amendment to the package leaflet. The Medicines Evaluation Board (MEB) explains this to NU.nl.

According to the MEB, doctors must always carefully consider who is vaccinated. If someone has doubts about the corona vaccine and has received a vaccine call, the advice is to consult with their own doctor.


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