This file photo shows a building housing Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

An expert report released by Japan's health ministry "cannot rule out" the possibility that the coronavirus vaccine caused the death of a 42-year-old woman in November 2022.

The report was delivered at a March 10 adverse vaccine reaction working group meeting.

There have been some 2,000 post-coronavirus vaccination fatalities reported in Japan, but this was the first time that the ministry has presented such an assessment. At the same meeting, the working group approved of continuing with COVID-19 vaccinations, concluding that the woman's case is not sufficiently concerning to impact Japan's vaccination program.

While the health ministry has not disclosed the individual's name, Ayano Iioka died at age 42 on Nov. 5 last year after receiving a COVID-19 shot in Aisai, Aichi Prefecture -- the same day as the case discussed in the ministry meeting. It is believed that the latest assessment was about her death.

Iioka apparently had a suspected case of anaphylactic shock after her vaccination, but the experts ruled that a causal relationship between the vaccine and the anaphylaxis "cannot be evaluated."

Iioka's family released a comment via their attorney on March 10, stating, "We believe that it was anaphylactic shock (that caused her death). As this point hasn't been made clear, we're not convinced of the latest conclusion. We hope that the medical accident probe committee set up by the Aisai Municipal Government will uncover the truth."

According to meeting materials, the woman received Pfizer's omicron vaccine shot on the afternoon of Nov. 5, 2022, and died that day. She fell ill roughly five minutes after the vaccine administration and stopped breathing 15 minutes later. She was confirmed dead an hour and 40 minutes after the vaccination.

She had preexisting conditions including severe obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The experts identified "no specific abnormal findings as a cause of death other than the vaccine" and concluded that they "cannot rule out a direct causal relationship between the vaccination and (the woman's) death."

Tetsuo Nakayama, specially appointed professor of clinical virology at Kitasato University, said, "If no other causes can be identified, it's only natural to strongly suspect causality with the vaccine when an individual has a reaction immediately after receiving a shot." He continued, "Any vaccine can cause reactions such as anaphylaxis. There is a need once again to review an emergency response system."

Excluding the woman's case, of the 1,998 deaths reported following COVID-19 vaccinations among those aged 12 and older, a causal relationship with the vaccine was denied in 11 cases, while the working group concluded that the causal relationship "cannot be evaluated" for the remaining 1,986 cases.

(Japanese original by Sanami Kato, Nagoya News Center, and Mikako Shimogiri, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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