Coronavirus: Vaccine-linked death prompts reminder letter from Ministry of Health to doctors - report

Doctors are being asked to keep an eye out for adverse events possibly related to vaccination after a man suffered myocarditis-like symptoms for nearly two weeks before dying.

Dunedin man Rory Nairn, 26, died in November, 12 days after getting his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. 1 News reports a pathologist assessment of the case was that Nairn died of "acute myocarditis", a known but incredibly rare side-effect, and with "no other cause" for the condition, that it was prompted by the vaccine. 

It's believed around 0.003 percent of vaccine recipients in New Zealand report myocarditis symptoms, which can be treated, particularly if caught early. In young people, the rate is even lower - a Danish study published on Friday finding a rate of 0.0016 percent in people aged 12-39, about half the overall rate in New Zealand. 

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and other Ministry of Health officials have penned a letter to health providers, 1 News reported, "to reiterate the importance of timely assessment and management to prevent the serious consequences of myocarditis/pericarditis".

Symptoms of myocarditis include chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness and an abnormal heartbeat.

"Myocarditis has affected less than one person in a million people who have had Comirnaty vaccine in the European Union countries," MedSafe's site reads, using the brand name for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. "In most cases the myocarditis was mild and is not expected to have any long-term effects. Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in protecting people from COVID-19 infection, which can also cause myocarditis." 

It's known to be more likely in younger men, like Nairn. 

The letter from Dr Bloomfield asks health providers to confirm they've got processes in place "to prevent the serious consequences of undiagnosed or untreated myocarditis", and said screening questions and advice would be updated on health phone lines.

"We're vaccinating a large amount of people in this country and it’s really important that at all our sites in all places everyone who is vaccinated gets effective post-vaccination advice and then also know where to go for help if they need to," Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner told 1 News. 

The risk of myocarditis from a COVID-19 infection are about 16 times higher than in the uninfected, studies show, and about six times more likely than after vaccination

"By chance, some people will experience new illnesses or die from a pre-existing condition shortly after vaccination, especially if they are elderly," Medsafe's website says

"To date, the observed number of deaths reported after vaccination is actually less than the expected number of natural deaths."

If the death is confirmed by the coroner to have been a result of the vaccine, it would be the second in New Zealand after almost 8 million vaccine doses - resulting in a mortality rate of 0.000025 percent. 

In contrast, New Zealand has recorded 49 COVID-19 deaths from 13,317 known cases, for a case fatality ratio (deaths divided by known cases) of 0.35 percent - about 14,000 times higher. Globally, the case fatality ratio to date is 2.1 percent. 

Vaccination is incredibly effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19. New Zealand's low case numbers through the pandemic have also prevented hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with cases, keeping mortality low when compared to many other nations. 

Newshub has contacted the Ministry of Health for more information.