Coronavirus: Auckland teenager's death 'does not appear' to be linked to vaccine - Coroner

New Zealand's Chief Coroner has issued a statement saying the death of an Auckland teenager "does not appear" to be "linked to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine".

Despite the Prime Minister last week shutting down rumours that a St Mary's College student's recent death was linked to having a vaccine, unfounded speculation remains rife on social media.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall said she was aware of "ongoing speculation about the cause of death in a case involving an Auckland teenager that was recently referred to the Coroners Court". 

"Based on the information available to date, it does not appear that the death in question is linked to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine," she said.

"However, this issue will be investigated carefully by the coroner and pertinent information will be requested from various agencies, including the COVID-19 Vaccination Independent Safety Monitoring Board.

"It could be a number of months before the final post mortem report is received and all information relating to this death is obtained from relevant agencies. The coroner’s findings in relation to this point will be made available once the inquiry has been completed."

To date, Judge Marshall said, only one death has been associated with vaccination. 

In August, the COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB) said a woman's death was due to myocarditis, "which is known to be a rare side effect of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine". 

"The case has been referred to the Coroner and the cause of death has not yet been determined," the Ministry of Health said at the time. "The CV-ISMB considered that the myocarditis was probably due to vaccination. The CV-ISMB noted that there were other medical issues occurring at the same time which may have influenced the outcome following vaccination."

Judge Marshall said on Wednesday that this case was still active with the coroner and "the causes and circumstances of this death have yet to be determined". 

Asked about the rumours at a press conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was no link between the death and the vaccine. 

"All I would say is, those who seek to make those links, I just can't imagine how distressing that would be for family members," Ardern said.

"We've been advised in that particular case that there is no link.

"If there is information there to be shared, it is reported to us and we proactively share that so I would advise caution on believing some of the information that is shared by those who are ultimately seeking to undermine people's decision around being vaccinated." 

Ardern and other political leaders continue to advocate for eligible people to be vaccinated, a critical tool in reducing the need for future lockdowns. Anyone over the age of 12 can now be vaccinated, with thousands of free slots available this week in Auckland. 

Any adverse events following vaccinations are reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM). Any with a fatal outcome are referred to CV-ISMB for review.

"CARM provides as much information on the case as possible for the clinical experts on the CV-ISMB to help them in their consideration of whether there was a link to vaccination," August's Ministry of Health Statement said.

"The benefits of vaccination with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continue to greatly outweigh the risk of both COVID-19 infection and vaccine side effects, including myocarditis."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Sunday systems were in place for him to be immediately notified of any link between a vaccine and a death.

"Even if there is a possibility a health professional would notify our system and in those ones where there will be a lot of interest, I get an email on the day and I've had no emails about that," Dr Bloomfield said.