Twelve elderly patients who died after vaccine had other conditions

Medicines watchdog says review of post-vaccine deaths has raised no safety concerns

Twelve elderly patients have died after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the State’s medicines watchdog, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

The regulator said that in all these deaths, the patients had underlying conditions and/or concurrent illness with a small number having tested positive for Covid-19.

Reports of the deaths have been “carefully reviewed and based on the information provided it is not considered that the vaccine played a contributory role in these events,” the HPRA said in its latest safety update on Covid-19 vaccines.

“It can be expected that fatalities due to progression of underlying disease or natural causes will continue to occur, including following vaccination. However, this does not meant that the deaths were caused by the vaccine.”

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The HPRA said that up to February 11th it had received reports of 2,103 reports of suspected side effects.

“National reporting experience to date continues to support the favourable assessment that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines outweigh the risks,” said the regulator.

A Covid-19 outbreak struck a Co Wicklow nursing home in late January, days before residents were due to receive their second vaccine dose. The outbreak led to a number of resident deaths.

Aisling House Nursing Home outside Arklow said the outbreak began after the first round of vaccinations but declined to disclose how long after the first dose or the number of cases or deaths from the disease. HSE records show the first dose of the two-dose Covid-19 vaccine was administered to residents at the nursing home on January 19th. The outbreak struck late last month, the home said.

"The outbreak occurred a number of days prior to a second dose of the vaccine and plans are in place for the second vaccination to protect against the continued threat of the virus," said Jan Ali, the registered provider in charge of the Co Wicklow nursing home.

The second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered 21 to 28 days after the first dose. The first dose is 52 per cent effective but protection does not kick in until at least 12 days after it is administered.

Aisling House said the majority of residents had recovered from the virus.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent