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Israelis getting second shots on schedule

Nearly 170,000 get 2nd COVID shot; initial study shows no major side effects

Survey of first 600 people to get second dose sees 70% report mild discomfort or localized pain, but no serious reactions; 13 suffer temporary facial paralysis after first shot

A Israeli healthcare worker prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit health clinic in Jerusalem, on January 14, 2021 (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP)
A Israeli healthcare worker prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit health clinic in Jerusalem, on January 14, 2021 (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP)

With nearly 170,000 Israelis having received the second shot of the coronavirus vaccine by Friday, initial studies indicated that recipients were likely to suffer minor discomfort and pain, but no significant side effects.

A study published Friday by the Maccabi health fund found that of the first 600 people to get the second dose, 70% said they felt some pain at the injection site or other minor effects like fever, nausea or dizziness within the first 72 hours after getting the shot.

There were no reports of serious side effects.

“Even if people don’t feel great for the first few days, the effects pass quickly and they will soon be protected from the disease,” Maccabi CEO Ran Saar told Channel 13 news.

Saar said it was very encouraging to see that Israelis were following instructions and getting their second shots as scheduled.

Thursday saw 56,716 Israelis receive their first inoculation, totaling 1,992,806, with another 64,366 getting their second shot, reaching 169,707 — by far the highest vaccination rate in the world, according to the Our World In Data website.

The findings correlate with Health Ministry figures released Thursday that indicated that out of almost 2 million people vaccinated, only 1,127 people filed reports of suffering side effects, with most of those being minor.

An Israeli medical worker presents her international card and certificate of vaccination after receiving a second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shot at Sheba Medical Center, the country’s largest hospital, in Ramat Gan near the coastal city of Tel Aviv, on January 14, 2021. (JACK GUEZ/AFP)

The most common side effects reported were weakness, dizziness, headaches and fever, with 293 combined cases, the ministry said. Another 307 people reported localized symptoms where the injection was administered such as pain, restriction of movement, swelling and redness.

The most serious reactions were 13 reported cases of Bell’s palsy, a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. Three people reported a bitter metallic taste in the mouth, 2 people had breathing difficulties and one person fainted.

As a result of the findings, the Israel Medical Association recommended to the Health Ministry that people who have suffered from Bell’s palsy after the first shot, should not receive the second dose of the vaccine, saying there was not enough information on the issue at the moment.

Health officials said that they were not concerned about the side effects.

“We are not worried by the side effects, they are minor and no different from what we see in other vaccines we know well,” said Dr. Erez Libel of the Clalit HMO.

The Health Ministry figures also indicated that as time passed after receiving the first shot, the chance of getting infected dropped significantly.

The study found that 82,567 people were infected within a week of getting their first shot, but only 4,500 after 15 days.

The positive findings come as the Health Ministry announced that all Israelis over the age of 45 will be eligible to receive the first COVID-19 shot through their health providers starting Sunday as Israel’s vaccine drive continues to expand.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed last week that Israel would ramp up its vaccine drive further, to a target of administering 170,000 shots a day, as a new batch of hundreds of thousands of doses of Pfizer’s vaccine touched down at Ben Gurion Airport.

By late March, Israel will have vaccinated 5.2 million citizens against the coronavirus, according to a plan drawn up by the Health Ministry.

A chart featuring the leading countries in COVID-19 vaccinations administered per capita, according to the Our World In Data website, January 15, 2021. (Screenshot)

Coinciding with the launch of the vaccination campaign has been a surge in coronavirus cases, with over 9,000 daily new infections diagnosed in recent days.

There has also been a sharp rise in fatalities and the number of patients in serious condition from COVID-19 complications.

Updated figures published Friday morning by the Health Ministry said 9,192 new cases had been confirmed the previous day — the fourth in a row with over 9,000 cases. However, the rate of positive tests, 7.7 percent, was roughly half of the record reached in September. The number of daily tests has grown dramatically and stood at 123,111 on Thursday.

Initial figures for Friday showed a similar positivity rate of 7.2% — 1,807 cases out of 25,230 tests conducted by 10 a.m.

The number of total cases since the pandemic began, which passed half a million Monday, reached 533,026, including 79,084 active cases — a new all-time record. Of them, 1,141 people were in serious condition, including 351 listed as being critical and 291 on ventilators.

The death toll surged to 3,892 — an increase of 49 since Thursday morning.

Police temporary roadblock on Route 1 outside Jerusalem on January 15, 2021, during a third nationwide full lockdown, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Due to the high morbidity and mortality figures, the government last week tightened lockdown measures that took effect a week earlier, ordering the closure of schools and businesses.

Netanyahu urged Israelis to adhere to government-mandated virus restrictions and said no decision had yet been made on extending the third nationwide lockdown, which health officials have signaled will last beyond the original January 21 end date.

Police geared up to significantly expand enforcement of the lockdown over the weekend, setting up checkpoints that will operate 24 hours a day.

Police said dozens of checkpoints were set up along main highways, as well as within cities and towns. The increased enforcement measures began at 6 a.m. on Friday.

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