Israel finds possible link between Pfizer vaccine and heart inflammation
Israel has flagged a possible link between the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and cases of heart inflammation (myocarditis), observed mainly in young men. The study mentioned that most cases were mild and patients spent at most four days in the hospital. Pfizer said it has not observed a higher rate of such cases among those vaccinated, adding that there was no causal link.
Of five million vaccinated persons, 275 cases of myocarditis were reported between December 2020 and May 2021, Israel's Health Ministry said on Tuesday. The study—conducted by three teams of experts—found a "probable link between receiving the second dose (of Pfizer) vaccine and the appearance of myocarditis among men aged 16 to 30." This link was relatively more prevalent in men aged 16 to 19.
Pfizer said there was no causal link between vaccinations and the observations of cases of myocarditis. The US pharmaceutical major said adverse events are thoroughly reviewed, adding that it regularly meets with the Vaccine Safety Department of the Israeli Ministry of Health to review data.
While awaiting the Health Ministry's report, Israel had previously not allowed vaccinations for those aged 12-15 years. With the publication of these latest findings, the country has now allowed vaccinations for the demographic and they are due to start next week, Nachman Ash, Israel's pandemic-response coordinator, told Radio 103 FM. "The efficacy of the vaccine outweighs the risk," Ash said.
Israel now has just 340 active COVID-19 active cases, and while restrictions remain on incoming tourism, the economy has fully opened. The country has done away with preventive restrictions such as physical distancing along with the requirement for special green vaccination passes to enter certain restaurants and venues. Meanwhile, roughly 55% of the country's population has been vaccinated against the viral disease.
Last month, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory group had recommended further examination of the possible link between mRNA vaccines and myocarditis. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology. CDC monitoring systems had not found more than expected myocarditis cases among the vaccinated population. However, members felt it was important to apprise healthcare workers of a "potential adverse event."
India is also in talks with Pfizer to procure doses of the vaccine, which is over 90% effective. Notably, Pfizer had earlier applied for emergency approval in India, however, with India's condition of a local trial, the company had withdrawn its application. India has now scrapped the requirement of local vaccine trials for foreign-made COVID-19 shots and will reportedly grant Pfizer indemnity from liability.