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1 in 1,000 Israelis report mild side effects from vaccine

Health Ministry says only 51 of some 650,000 people to have received the Pfizer shot sought medical attention for symptoms suffered

People wait to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, December 29, 2020 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
People wait to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, December 29, 2020 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Around one in a thousand people who received the coronavirus vaccine in Israel have reported suffering mild side effects, with only a few dozen seeking medical attention following the shot, figures published Wednesday showed.

According to the Health Ministry, a total of 652 people out of around 650,000 to have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine reported some discomfort after the shot.

The most common side effects reported were weakness, dizziness and fever, with 319 combined cases, the ministry said. Five also reported suffering diarrhea. Another 293 people reported localized symptoms where the injection was administered such as pain, restriction of movement, swelling and redness.

Fourteen people said they had allergic reactions such as itching and swelling of the tongue and throat.

Additionally, 26 people suffered what the ministry described as “neurological symptoms,” with 19 complaining of a tingly sensation in their arm.

The ministry noted that only 51 people (0.008%) of those who reported suffering any side effects said they sought medical attention for their symptoms.

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit vaccination center in Rehovot on December 29, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

According to the Kan public broadcaster, there have been four cases where people in Israel have died shortly after receiving the vaccination, but three of the four were deemed by the Health Ministry, as well as by both family members and doctors, to have been unrelated to the shots. The fourth case, an 88-year-old man who had serious preexisting health problems, is currently being investigated.

The Pfizer vaccine is not made with the coronavirus itself, meaning that there is no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus. No major safety issues were uncovered in trials of the shot and only common vaccine-related side effects like fever, fatigue and injection site pain were found.

Israel has ramped up its vaccination campaign amid a third national lockdown, which took effect on Sunday evening to curb a resurgence in infections.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry said that 152,000 coronavirus vaccines were administered the day before, exceeding for the first time the goal of administering at least 150,000 a day.

“On the way to a million vaccinated!” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tweeted. “Close to 650,000 in total.”

Israel began its vaccination drive on December 20, focusing on healthcare workers, those over 60 and some at-risk groups.

A nurse holds coronavirus vaccines at Shaarei Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, December 19, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Officials set a goal of reaching 150,000 vaccinations a day in the course of this week, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is aiming for some 2.25 million Israelis out of a population of 9.2 million to be vaccinated by the end of January.

Channel 12 said Monday night that Israel expects to receive a total of 3.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by Thursday — enough to vaccinate 1.9 million people, since the Pfizer vaccine is given in two shots, three weeks apart. Additionally, it has been reported that another four million are expected to come by the end of March for a total of eight million doses — enough to vaccinate four million people.

Israel also has an agreement to receive 6 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough for 3 million people. However, Channel 12 has said Moderna’s vaccine is not expected to arrive in Israel earlier than April.

Additionally, Israel has reportedly signed a deal to receive 10 million doses of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and Cambridge-based British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon during a tour of a vaccination clinic in the northern town of Kiryat Ata, Edelstein said, “We will receive millions more vaccines in the coming two months.”

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