New Zealand reports first death following Pfizer vaccine shot

New Zealand on Monday announced it had recorded its first death linked to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine after a woman suffered from myocarditis, which is known to be a rare side effect of inflammation in the heart muscle.

New Zealand's COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board (CV-ISMB) released a statement on Monday advising health care professionals and consumers to be aware of myocarditis and pericarditis, another rare side effect that can occur after vaccine administration.

"The CV-ISMB extends their sympathies to the woman’s family and friends during this difficult time and thanks the family for their assistance with this investigation," the New Zealand Ministry of Health said in a statement.

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

When reached for comment by The Hill, Pfizer said in a statement, "Pfizer is aware of rare reports of myocarditis and pericarditis, predominantly in male adolescents and young adults, after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination."

"Patients have typically rapidly improved with conservative treatment," the company added.

The health ministry notes that while this is the first case in New Zealand of a person's death being linked to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, other deaths following vaccinations have also been reported, though none were considered to have been related to vaccines.

“We want to ensure that the outcomes from this investigation are widely available for others to learn from. The findings will be published to increase the scientific knowledge about vaccine-induced myocarditis,” CV-ISMB chair John Tait said. "The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective in protecting against serious illness and death from COVID-19, and we remain confident about using it in New Zealand."

According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, only about 22 percent of New Zealand's total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Throughout much of the pandemic, the country has been hailed for its handling of the virus, taking hard-line stances on stay-at-home orders and restrictions.

New Zealand has so far confirmed just over 3,500 COVID-19 cases and just 26 related deaths.

Updated at 9:01 a.m.