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Is Pfizer’s COVID vaccine linked to heart inflammation, two deaths in Israel?

Health Ministry investigating whether Pfizer shot connected to reports of heart muscle inflammation in young people

A photo illustration of a syringe and a bottle reading "COVID-19 Vaccine" next to the Pfizer company logo in Jerusalem on December 10, 2020. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s Ministry of Health has “serious concerns” that dozens of cases of heart muscle inflammation, which occurred in dozens of young people, could be connected to the Pfizer mRNA shot, according to Channel 12. 

While most patients were treated and discharged from the hospital in good condition, a 22-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man died – neither of whom had preexisting conditions.

The news comes as Israel awaits the go ahead from the FDA to begin vaccinating children under age 16. 

The Ministry of Health report, which was leaked to the media, shows that one-in-100,000 people who have been vaccinated suffered afterwards from myocarditis. But that number jumped to one-in-20,000 in the 16 to 30 age group. The report said it found a total of 62 cases, most of which affected men between 18 to 30 years old, 56 of them after the second dose.

The doctors who wrote the report said further investigation was needed to confirm a link to the vaccine, but according to Channel 12, they described it as “likely” in the report:

These findings were presented to Pfizer, which said that it has not detected similar findings in the rest of the world at this time and that it will look deeper into the phenomenon... A possible reason for the lack of similar findings in other countries so far may be connected to the low vaccination rate among young people, since the majority of cases occurred among men under the age of 30.

At this stage, according to preliminary findings, which need further corroboration, there is an impression of a higher number than expected, especially for ages up to the age of 30. A more advanced report on the subject will be prepared soon.

The impression is that there is an increase in the incidence of the phenomenon especially in young men on the scale of 1:20,000 after vaccination. It is likely that the onset of myocarditis is associated with receiving the vaccine (especially the second dose).

In response to the report, the Health Ministry said it has set up a committee to monitor this “phenomena that have appeared in the proximity of the vaccination.” 

“The cited report does not show with certainty an increase in mortality due to the vaccine, nor is there any certainty that there is an increase in myocarditis compared to the same period last year,” the Ministry said. “This is an important report that is currently being discussed among experts in the Health Ministry, and the results and report will be made public, just like the reports that have already been published.”

“We cannot yet tell if there are more cases than normal or if there are similar numbers annually and the proximity is just a coincidence. Efforts to collect more data are continuing,” the report said.

“At the moment we believe that the vaccination plan should proceed as normal for those over 16. However, it should be noted that there is a possibility that we will see the same results in vaccinations of those aged 12-15,” it cautioned.

Dr. Yaffa Shir Raz, a health communication lecturer at IDC Herzliya who has been highly critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic, said the Health Ministry needs to examine how many adults suffered from the same phenomena.

“There are two critical conclusions we draw in light of this report. One: Administering the injection in Israel must stop immediately until we clarify how many elderly people died of heart inflammation and heart attacks after receiving it. If the drug caused such severe effects among young people, all the more so, as it also killed elderly people – the question is how many,” she said. “Second: Forget about vaccinating the children.”

The country wants to start vaccinating children 12 to 15 years old as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccine for emergency use for those ages.

Corona Commissioner Nachman Ash said the country has reported its findings to Pfizer, but that the concerns pale in comparison to the positive effects of the shot.

“It looks like the benefit of the vaccine is so great that even if we do find a connection between some of the cases and the vaccine, it won’t be justified to take any action regarding the vaccine,” Ash said in an interview with Radio 103FM. 

Pfizer said in a statement that it has “not observed a higher rate of myocarditis than what would be expected in the general population.”

“A causal link to the vaccine has not been established. There is no evidence at this time to conclude that myocarditis is a risk associated” with the vaccine, the company said.

With more than 5 million Israelis now inoculated with the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, Israel has vaccinated 54% of the total population and more than 80% of the eligible population over the age of 16. If you count Israelis who have recovered from COVID and are not yet required to be vaccinated, 90% of those eligible have immunity.

Israel is reporting record low infection rates and only 157 patients are hospitalized in serious condition. In the last few weeks, most restrictions have been rolled back including a mandate which required use of masks both in and outdoors.

“This is a tremendous achievement for the health system and Israeli citizens. Together we are eradicating the coronavirus,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tweeted last week.

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Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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