In January 2021, several news outlets reported that 23 people had died following vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Norway. While factual, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency, headlines like these should not be interpreted as evidence that the vaccine itself caused these deaths and should include the relevant context that the primary people being vaccinated in Norway were elderly individuals in nursing homes.
The 23 deaths refers not to some single isolated incident but to all deaths of anyone across the country of Norway who got the shot since their vaccination program began. Any death that occurs closely following a vaccine injection is recorded by the government for safety studies, even, the agency says, “when the causal relationships appears very unclear.” The only people receiving the vaccines in Norway, at the time this report came out, are those in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Based on the incidents analyzed so far, chief Norwegian Medicines Agency physician Sigurd Hortemo argued that “common adverse reactions to mRNA vaccines, such as fever and nausea, may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients.” On the other hand, the agency stated, “an average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities” in Norway.
As such, the number of deaths reported in these headlines is factual but the association with vaccination is speculative and unproven.