Only 12 Children Under 15 Get Myocarditis Out of Hundreds of Thousands Vaccinated in Israel

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A man receives a coronavirus vaccine in Jerusalem, on Thursday.
A man receives a coronavirus vaccine in Jerusalem, on Thursday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

People suffered significantly less side effects after receiving the third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, compared to side effects reported after the first and second shots, Israel's Health Ministry data shows.

In addition, only twelve children between the ages of 12 and 15 contracted a disease that causes inflammation of the heart muscle after receiving the vaccine, a minuscule number compared to that of children in that age group who were immunized. According to Health Ministry data, 331,538 children aged 12-15 received one dose of the vaccine, and 255,444 received two doses.

According to the ministry, one child contracted myocarditis, a relatively rare disease, after the first jab of the vaccine, while the other 11 were diagnosed after the second dose. All 12 – 11 boys and one girl – became ill three to five days after being vaccinated, and all have fully recovered.

First-graders on their first day of school in Jerusalem, earlier this month. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

More generally, the side effects of the vaccine include general weakness, fever, headaches, muscle aches, chills, dizziness, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and enlarged lymph nodes. For comparison purposes, the proportion of those getting the booster shot who reported general weakness after receiving the vaccine has been 86.6 per million vaccine doses, while the rate among those getting the second dose is 271.8 per million vaccinations.

Twenty-six of the 3.2 million people who’ve gotten the booster shot to date reported significant side effects. Eighteen children aged 12 to 15 have suffered significant side effects, of the hundreds of thousands who’ve been vaccinated. “Significant” side effects are defined as those that put someone’s life at risk; that resulted in death; that led to a lengthy hospitalization; that caused a permanent disability; a birth defect in a baby of a woman vaccinated during her pregnancy, or any situation that demanded urgent medical care as determined by a medical team.

The statistics about the safety of the third dose are important but don’t surprise too many professionals. They are important because unlike the first two doses, Israel decided to administer the booster shot without waiting for Pfizer’s study protocol, FDA approval or the recommendation of the World Health Organization.

The decision to give the booster shot to those aged 60 and over was a relatively easy one, as it became clear that the waning effectiveness of the vaccine among those who had been the first to get it and who were at the highest risk for serious illness was starting to claim victims.

But the decision to broaden the booster shot campaign to the rest of the eligible population was not as obvious. Even public health leaders like Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis opposed the move, saying there was not enough information on the issue, and instead recommended focusing on more at-risk groups, such as medical personnel, those under 60 who had underlying illnesses, those who live in crowded places, like prisons, and then move more gradually to other groups.

But despite Alroy-Preis’ position, the vast majority of the experts in the professional forum of the vaccine committee and the pandemic response team supported broadening the administration of the booster shot, and by the end of August, anyone 12 and older who had been vaccinated more than five months previously was eligible for the shot.

Two months and 3.2 million booster shots later the data suggests that the benefit outweighs the damage significantly, especially considering the drop in reported side effects.

But the bottom line is that most of the most common side effects are localized and temporary, and even if they were appearing at double or triple the rates that have been documented, they don’t ultimately undermine a person’s functioning or quality of life. Temporary reactions like headaches, fever, diarrhea, redness and itching can occur after any type of vaccination, and no one is surprised by them or runs to report them.

Therefore, what is important and interesting about these safety examinations are the more significant symptoms, like cardiac reactions or neurological symptoms. These have been appearing at minuscule rates, even less frequently than after the first and second vaccine doses.

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