Australia is investigating reports that Norwegian authorities are concerned about the safety of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after a number of elderly and frail people died after being inoculated.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency has reported 29 people had suffered side effects from having the vaccine, 13 of them fatal.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is seeking additional information through the Therapeutic Goods Administration from the company and the Norwegian medical regulator.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has also tasked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to seek advice directly from the Norwegian government.
“So as further information is available, we’ll share that with the Australian public,” Hunt said.
“There is no change in our timeframes at this point, but the medical regulator is completely empowered to make independent decisions.”
The Pfizer vaccine forms only part of Australia’s response to COVID-19, as there will be a greater use of the AstraZeneca, and home produced, vaccine once it has been approved by the TGA.
Vaccinations are due to start next month.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said concerns over Pfizer is why Australia has not put all its eggs in one basket when it comes to a vaccine, with the AstraZeneca, Novavax and other options available.
“We’ve got enough doses to, of course, roll out right across the nation, free of charge, and to also provide a vaccine, from February, for the Pacific Islands as well,” he told the Seven Network’s Weekend Sunrise program.
“So throughout the year, we’re going to ensure that the vaccine is swift, yes, but safe. Absolutely paramount it will be safe.”
Colin Brinsden in Canberra