Brazil Stops Vaccinating Some Teens to Probe a Reported Death
(Bloomberg) -- Brazil ordered states halt immunizations of teenagers who aren’t part of at-risk groups for Covid-19 as it probes the details around the death of a young adult who received a Pfizer Inc. shot.
The death was reported in Sao Paulo and is under investigation, Health Ministry officials said at a press conference on Thursday. They gave no details on how long after the shot the death was reported, nor on the cause of death.
Health officials in Sao Paulo confirmed in a statement the death of a 16-year-old in Sao Bernardo do Campo, a city close to the state’s capital, who had received a Pfizer shot. They gave no details on when the death happened, and said they are investigating whether there is any relationship between the vaccine and the cause of death, adding that “any conclusion is premature and reckless.”
Health authorities in many countries closely follow potential side effects from new medical products, and vaccines are no exception. For the Covid shots, health workers in many countries have been encouraged to report any potential side effect after vaccination for further investigation, but can also end up picking up many unrelated events.
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said some states are applying shots that have not been cleared for teenagers. The Pfizer Inc’s booster is the only authorized by the regulator for the group, he said, adding that there were 1,500 reports of “adverse effects” among 3.5 million vaccinated.
“For now, as a matter of caution, we have adverse events to be investigated,” Queiroga said. “We have teenagers who got vaccines that weren’t recommended.”
Teenagers with underlying conditions who have received a first dose of Pfizer can go back for a second shot, Queiroga said. Immunizations are suspended for those not part of at-risk groups, even those who got a first shot of Pfizer, and all young adults who received other vaccines, he added.
Pfizer said in a statement that it’s following the case but that, as of now, there’s no proven link between the death and its vaccine. It adds its shot has been approved for use in teenagers by regulators in the U.S. and Europe, as well as a score of other countries, and that it monitors all reports of adverse effects very closely.
This morning, the ministry had issued a note asking states to halt vaccinations of those aged between 12 and 17 years old who don’t have underlying conditions saying the World Health Organization didn’t recommend the immunization of that group, which usually presented milder cases of Covid-19. It also cited the fact only one vaccine -- Pfizer’s -- was available for that group, and an improvement in the pandemic’s scenario in Brazil as reasons for the stoppage.
Teenagers were supposed to start receiving vaccines on Sept. 15, according to the health ministry’s planned schedule, but several states have been deploying doses for weeks. Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, said 72% of teens between 12 and 17 have already received a first shot.
Repeated studies have shown that the vaccines are highly effective at stopping hospitalization or death from Covid. Serious side effects liked to vaccination are exceptionally rare.
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