Prof. Hezi Levy, Director General of the Ministry of Health
Call to suspend vaccination campaign under age 30
In recent days, there have been growing concerns about a significant short-term side effect following vaccination with the COVID- 19 Pfizer vaccine, in particular regarding the younger population. There is a noticeably increasing number of significant testimonies linking the vaccine and the incidence of myocarditis and data from the committee set up by the Ministry of Health indicates that the link is real and causal. Occurrence of 90% of cases after the second vaccination, with a median time of a few days, and an incidence up to 20 times higher in the younger age group supports the premise that there is a causal rather than an incidental link.
While this may not be clear to the general public, it is clear to you and us, the undersigned, that the absence of a significant correlation at this stage, does not negate the existence of such a correlation or its clinical relevance. In addition, any attempt to underestimate the importance of myocardial severity as if it was a morning cold is a serious breach of ethics. It is also clear to you that this is a clinical disorder that carries life-threatening potential(certainly by several orders of magnitude greater than the risk of COVID-19 in children), which can cause arrhythmias, future heart damage to the point of cardiomyopathy, and even death.
In view of the current morbidity data in Israel, and in light of the knowledge we have accumulated about the behavior of the virus and the illness, it can be said with complete confidence that the young Israeli population is well within the safety margins of the risks of the disease: the chance of contracting COVID-19 for an Israeli resident during the month of May was about 0.01%, at a time when the risk of serious illness in this population is low anyway. The truth of the matter is that at this point in time, the chance of hospitalization due to a significant medical condition resulting from COVID-19 under the age of 30 is negligible.
Therefore, the Ministry of Health must act responsibly and in a balanced manner: in light of the lowest risk data from COVID-19 (even lower than winter viruses at this stage), and considering the concerning data emerging about the vaccine’s side effects, notably myocarditis, there must be an immediate suspension of the vaccination campaign for all individuals up to the age of 30 (including of course the children aged 12 to 15 who appear to be at even greater risk) – and this is until more data is received from Israel and around the world attesting to the safety of the vaccine.
There are many precedents for reducing or discontinuing a vaccine policy due to side effects. The AstraZenca vaccine has been suspended in Germany for those aged 60 and under (i.e., people who are not in a population at risk) following 31 cases of thrombosis, i.e., a case rate of only 1 per 87,000, the incidence being 30 times lower than currently reported in myocarditis at the for ages 16 to 18. The vaccine for the Rotavirus (a virus known as one of the main causes of hospitalization in children), was suspended by the US authorities in the late 1990s because of a series of Intussusception cases with a frequency of 1 per 10,000. The 1976 influenza vaccine was suspended when it was found that its use had caused the onset of Guillain-Barré syndrome at a rate of “only” 1 per 100,000, and the measles vaccine was suspended in 1969 due to 3 encephalopathy events at a frequency of less than 1 per million.
In the name of the legacy of Hippocrates, Maimonides, and Asaph the Physician, we call upon you to prevent unnecessary risk – “first do no harm”: Suspend the vaccination of young and healthy children who are not at risk from COVID-19, until the completion of the work of the Examination and Analysis committee. If it indeed become clear that the vaccine carries with it the possibility of significant side effects, as suggested by substantial evidence already available, we as physicians, fear a fatal blow to public confidence in the healthcare system, one which is likely to lead to a future decline in routine vaccination rates, lower responsiveness of patients to medical recommendations, and harm to the status of physicians in general.
If it is subsequently established that the vaccine does not increase the risk of myocarditis (although this does not seem reasonable now in light of the data), we can appeal to those who have not been vaccinated but do so knowing that we have maintained their safety and health. Only this will increase public confidence in the system!
It is essential that you involve the public: present the data collected in a committee appointed by the Ministry of Health to study side effects; publish the data on severe morbidity and mortality in the COVID-19 year, compared to normal years, provide the public with the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision and give their full informed consent to the vaccine.
Given the current morbidity data in Israel, there is nothing to lose by waiting a few weeks for the picture to become clear, but great potential for harm if we act recklessly. Suspend the vaccine.
This is the right, responsible and ethical action, that takes into account the current risk / benefit balance.