A woman in New Zealand has died after receiving the approved Pfizer (PFE) COVID shot, marking the first death in the country linked to a COVID vaccine, the country’s Ministry of Health reported on Monday.

The Ministry of Health said the woman’s death was due to myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle – which the agency said is a known “rare side effect of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.”

The woman’s case has been referred to the coroner, and the cause of death has not yet been determined, according to the ministry. But the COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board in New Zealand said that it considered the woman’s myocarditis was “probably due to vaccination,” noting that there were other medication issues occurring at the same time that may have influenced the outcome of the shot.

The board also said that the circumstances of the death were “consistent with what is known about myocarditis and the Pfizer vaccine.”

According to the World Health Organization, myocarditis linked to the COVID vaccine is rare and primarily affects young men with treatable symptoms, Reuters reported.

A warning was provided by the Ministry of Health to healthcare professionals and consumers to be aware of the signs of myocarditis and pericarditis. However, it said, the Pfizer vaccine’s benefits continue to “greatly” outweigh the risks of side effects, including myocarditis.

In a statement, Dr. John Tait, chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board, 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.”

He continued, “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.”

Symptoms of myocarditis can include a new onset of chest pain, shortness of breath, and abnormal heartbeat. Anyone experiencing these symptoms within a few days after vaccination should seek immediate medical attention, the ministry said.

The New Zealand ministry also maintained that this is the first case of a death that has been possibly linked to a COVID vaccine in the country. It said that it has received other reports of death after vaccination but has not considered them related to a COVID inoculation.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, New Zealand has reported 3,520 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 26 COVID-19 deaths. The country has 23% of its population fully vaccinated against the virus.

New Zealand has provisionally approved the Pfizer, Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines.

New Zealand has been COVID-19-free for six months, recently suffering an outbreak of the virus with the onset of the Delta variant. As of Monday, the current outbreak total had spiked to more than 560 cases amid a country of about 5 million people, causing lockdowns that are in effect for at least a month, according to the BBC.

As of Monday premarket hours, shares of Pfizer were trading at $46.36, down 24 cents, or 0.52%.

Pfizer raised its 2021 forecasts based on surging demand for Covid-19 vaccines Pfizer raised its 2021 forecasts based on surging demand for Covid-19 vaccines Photo: AFP / JAVIER TORRES