The Australian Therapeutics Goods Association (TGA) has said it had received 272 reports of death after receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, noting that many were elderly and had symptoms from other illnesses.
The statement comes after revelations a 52-year-old woman in New South Wales died after blood clotting in her brain, which was linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
According to the TGA, between May 31 and Jun. 6, the drug administrator reviewed 2,198 reports regarding adverse events following immunisation (AEFI).
The reports found that to June 6, 2021, 272 people had died following the administering of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“By chance, some people will experience new illnesses or die from a pre-existing condition shortly after vaccination, especially if they are elderly,” the TGA said in a statement.
“We review all deaths reported after vaccination and compare the expected natural death rates in a similar case group to observed death rates following immunisation to distinguish between possible side effects of the vaccines and coincidental events,” it continued.
“For reports of death other than thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS also known as blood-clotting), our review of cases and analysis of reporting patterns does not suggest that the vaccine caused these deaths.”
So far, Australians have received 5.5 million doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Speaking after the death of the 52-year-old woman, Australian Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said that his heart goes out to the family and friends and colleagues of this particular person. “These events remain of concern, and we are looking at them very closely. We learn from each of these, including this unfortunate event in New South Wales.”
“I will point out that it’s only the second death with now over 3.6 million doses of this vaccine being given across Australia,” he told reporters.
So far, Australia has recorded 48 confirmed cases of TTS—which under UK definitions would come to 35—while an additional 13 cases were probable.
Two have died in hospital, while 15 remain hospitalised including one in intensive care. The other 31 patients have been discharged and are recovering.
Kelly also noted that the expert group on immunisation had met again and made a risk-benefit analysis in relation to AstraZeneca that it was still a good choice for people over 50.
“And for under-50, the Pfizer vaccine currently is preferred. There is definitely a much lower risk of this event, these clotting events, the older one gets,” he said.
Pfizer Side Effects Also Being Investigated
The TGA also noted that they were investigating reports from Israel and the U.S. linking the Pfizer or Comirnaty vaccination to incidents of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) which have been reported after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.
The United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration said they had received 800 reports of patients complaining of heart inflammation symptoms after receiving the Pfizer of Moderna vaccines.
The TGA noted that to 6 June 2021, nine cases of pericarditis and one case of myocarditis following vaccination had been reported to the TGA.
However, they note that there is no indication at present that these cases are due to the vaccine, but the TGA is collaborating with international medicine regulators on this issue.