The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has been linked to swelling of the heart in a very small number of cases in Israel.
It has been named by Israel’s Health Ministry as the ‘probable’ cause of a condition called myocarditis, the medical name for swelling in the heart.
Israel has one of the world’s most successful vaccine rollouts and officials there said there had been a total of 275 cases seen so far out of around five million people given the Pfizer jab. This is equivalent to just 0.005 per cent of recipients, or one in 20,000 people.
Of those, the country said 148 cases were ‘probably’ linked to the jab, around 0.003 per cent of the total receiving the vaccine there – although half of them had other underlying health problems. The remaining 127 are thought to have happened later so a link was unclear.
Pfizer said it had not seen a higher rate of the condition during its clinical trials than would be expected in the general population, reports Mail Online.
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Israel’s Health Ministry said men aged 16 to 30 made up the vast majority of cases, but 95 per cent of them had mild cases. Two patients in the group died.
However, Israel is still pressing ahead with plans to vaccinate children aged 12 to 16, after its pandemic co-ordinator said the risk from the virus outweighed any concerns over the jab.
This is one of the first health concerns linked to the Pfizer vaccine, which was not caught up in the blood clot scare with the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs.
Health officials in Israel first raised concerns Pfizer’s jab could trigger heart problems in April after detecting 60 cases, mostly among young men. But the US-based Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) said monitoring had not picked up a higher number of cases of the condition among those who had been vaccinated than would be expected normally.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and is usually triggered by a virus. Ccommon symptoms include chest pain, a fever, a fast heartbeat, tiredness and shortness of breath. In most cases of viral myocarditis, the illness goes away and there are no complications. But in rare cases when inflammation is severe, there can be damage to the heart which needs monitoring and possibly a heart transplant.
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UK medical regulators have not raised any concerns about health issues among people who have had the jab and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said last week it had not found higher rates of heart problems among those who got the jab compared to the general population.
The Israeli scientists wrote in their report on the cases: “There is a probable link between receiving the second dose [of Pfizer] vaccine and the appearance of myocarditis among men aged 16 to 30.” But Dr Nachman Ash, Israel’s pandemic response coordinator, said: ‘The efficacy of the vaccine outweighs the risk.’