Israeli health officials have found a probable link between Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine and dozens of cases of heart inflammation in young men following the second dose of the vaccine, its health ministry said.
The vaccine has been administered to more than five million people in the country and Israeli authorities are currently discussing whether to expand the inoculation drive to 12-15 year olds, after the US Food and Drug Administration authorised its use for the age group.
According to a study by health officials, there were 275 cases of myocarditis identified between December 2020, when the vaccination drive began, and May 2021, including 148 cases within a month after vaccination.
Of these, 27 cases occurred after the first dose and 121 following the second dose. In both cases, about half were in people with previous medical conditions.
The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is the one most commonly given in Ireland’s vaccine rollout. However, very few people in the age category affected in the Israeli study have yet been vaccinated.
Most of the Israeli cases occurred in young men, especially those between 16 and 19 years old. In most cases, patients were hospitalised for four days or less, and in 95 per cent of the cases were classified as mild, the Israeli health ministry said.
At this time, there's still no indication that the cases are due to the vaccine, Pfizer said in a statement. Myocarditis is often caused by viral infections, and Covid infections have been reported to cause the condition, the US drugmaker said.
BioNTech said more than 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered globally and the “benefit risk profile” of the vaccine remains positive.
“A careful assessment of the reports is ongoing and it has not been concluded,” the company said. “Adverse events, including myocarditis and pericarditis, are being regularly and thoroughly reviewed by the companies as well as by regulatory authorities.”
Meanwhile, Germany says it plans to pay vaccine manufacturers an annual reservation fee to build up reserve capacity of 600-700 million doses per year to help it fight future pandemics, health minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday.
The government plans to launch a call for tenders for so-called pandemic preparedness contracts with a five-year term, he told a news conference. – Bloomberg / Reuters