An 88-year-old man died at a Jerusalem hospital Tuesday, hours after receiving the coronavirus vaccine, with doctors stressing in a statement that the patient had serious preexisting health problems.
The man had received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during the afternoon as part of Israel’s mass inoculation program. He later collapsed at home.
Paramedics called to the scene worked to resuscitate him as they rushed him to Hadassah Mount Scopus Medical Center where doctors later pronounced his death. Discouraging any link between the shot and the death, the hospital said the man suffered from “chronic, complex and difficult” health conditions, without specifying.
It was the second reported death to happen hours after an elderly Israeli received the inoculation.
On Monday, a man, 75, received a vaccine shot in his northern hometown of Beit She’an. After waiting an obligatory half an hour at the medical clinic, he was released home, saying he felt fine. Some time after getting home, he lost consciousness and was later pronounced dead as a result of heart failure.
The Health Ministry said a preliminary investigation indicated that his death did not appear to be connected to the shot. The man suffered from heart disease and cancer, and had suffered a number of previous heart attacks, the ministry said.
The man’s family also asked not to link his death to the vaccine, Hebrew media reported.
Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy nonetheless announced the formation of a committee of inquiry to investigate the incident.
In a separate incident Monday evening, a man was taken to the Terem emergency medical clinic in Jerusalem after suffering a severe allergic reaction around an hour after receiving a dose of the vaccine.
The man, 46, does not suffer from preexisting conditions but has an allergy to penicillin, Terem said in a statement. The clinic said he has suffered anaphylactic shock as a result of his allergy but that he was given medication and his condition had “stabilized.”
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.
Before Israel began its mass inoculation program, polls had shown that a significant percentage of the population were reluctant to be vaccinated, apparently out of concerns that the rapid pace at which coronavirus vaccines have been created and put through trials may have come at the expense of their safety.
Israel administered its 500,000th coronavirus vaccine shot Tuesday evening, crossing the milestone just over a week after the start of its vaccination campaign.
Officials have said they aim to reach 150,000 vaccinations a day in the course of this week, and Netanyahu has set a goal of having some 2.25 million Israelis — nearly a quarter of Israel’s 9.2 million population — vaccinated by the end of January.
Israel currently ranks first globally in vaccinations per capita, slightly ahead of Bahrain and quite significantly ahead of other world countries, according to the University of Oxford-run Our World in Data.