Coronavirus: Death of person who got COVID-19 vaccine reported to health authorities, but no direct link established

A person has died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the Ministry of Health has confirmed - but an initial assessment suggests there's no direct link.

Dr Tim Hanlon, the group manager of post event for the COVID-19 Vaccine and Immunisation Programme, confirmed to Newshub the death had been reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM).

A report had been filed with CARM because the person had recently been immunised against coronavirus, Dr Hanlon says - but he insists the information provided to them and Medsafe strongly suggests the death is unrelated to the vaccine.

"This is the fourth death reported to CARM - the earlier three have been assessed by CARM as being unrelated to the vaccination," he said in a statement.

"Due to the sudden nature of the death it has been referred to the Coroner's Office and we await their determination... For privacy reasons, we cannot confirm any details of the deceased person, including the person’s age and where they live."

Asked about the death at a press conference on Wednesday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said just because an investigation was being carried out didn't mean it was linked to the vaccine.

"The issue is wherever somebody passes away or has an adverse reaction after receiving the vaccine, that is always investigated," he told media.

"That doesn't mean it's linked to the vaccine, and sometimes there can be other, good explanations for why something has happened."

More than 321,000 people in New Zealand had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Wednesday, with 152,000 having received their second dose.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been assessed by medical authorities across the world and deemed safe for the vast majority of people.

In approving its use in the United States, the US Food and Drug Administration said the "known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine's use".

In a post on its website, the Ministry of Health says adverse events following immunisations (AEFIs) can happen with some people, but stresses it isn't normally severe.

"These are common, are usually mild, don't last long and won't stop people from having the second dose or going about daily life," it reads. "Serious allergic reactions do occur but are extremely rare."

Medsafe published a new AEFI report on Wednesday, noting that 347 AEFI reports had been received since the last update a week prior - though just 25 of these were deemed serious.

The medicine safety authority also noted a new safety signal - appendicitis. While there had been one serious report of appendicitis, Medsafe's initial review was that it isn't related to vaccination.

"We will continue [to] monitor appendicitis through our usual safety monitoring processes."