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Israel Didn’t Check Most Reports of COVID Vaccine Side Effects: Watchdog

State comptroller investigated how the Israel Ministry of Health handled adverse event reports.

Published in The Epoch Times May 29, 2024 by Zachary Stieber, Senior Reporter

Israeli health officials did not look into hundreds of thousands of reports of problems following COVID-19 vaccination, a watchdog found.

People submitted some 354,200 reports of side effects after COVID-19 vaccination to the Israeli Ministry of Health, but 82 percent of the reports were lost, according to State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman. Officials blamed technical malfunctions.

The Ministry of Health also did not investigate 33,000 additional reports that were filed anonymously, according to Mr. Englman’s probe, even though some of the anonymous reporters provided contact information. The ministry told the watchdog it did not have enough manpower to contact the people who reported adverse events.

Due to the missing data and the lack of follow-up on anonymous reports, the Health Ministry’s communications regarding the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines—primarily the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine used in the country—were based on just 55,000 reports.

Most reports were lodged with health maintenance organizations, which administer Israel’s universal health care system.

Clalit Health Services, which insures about half of the country’s population, reported that 279,300 reports of vaccine side effects were not received by the Ministry of Health.

Leumit Health Services reported no adverse events following COVID-19 vaccination until May 2022, because the Ministry of Health never contacted the organization to set up access to its system, the comptroller said.

Maccabi Health Services passed approximately 3,000 reports in December 2021 but the ministry did not receive them. Health officials asked Maccabi to re-send the reports in a corrected form but Maccabi did not do so and the ministry “did not demand to receive them,” Mr. Englman said.

In a previously leaked video, experts commissioned by the Ministry of Health said in a private meeting that the organizations were “keep[ing] the information close to their chest,” making analysis of the reports difficult.

Of the 55,000 reports, most centered on minor symptoms such as colds but some conveyed serious issues such as menstrual disorders. While the authorities investigated reports of heart inflammation—Israel was the first country in the world to investigate post-vaccination myocarditis—they did not investigate some of the other reported serious issues, such as menstrual irregularities, the comptroller said.

The office did not mention the previously leaked video, which showed that experts commissioned by the Ministry of Health determined that Pfizer’s vaccine caused menstrual issues and other serious problems. However, officials hid the findings from the public after being warned they could face litigation.

Only one of the 114 meetings by the experts tapped by the ministry focused on the COVID-19 vaccines was open to the public, compared to all of the meetings by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisers, the state comptroller noted.

The watchdog probe also discovered that the Ministry of Health kept data on side effects reported after COVID-19 vaccination in Excel files instead of a dedicated system. Certain people were authorized to access the files with no password required, raising security concerns, and no logs were kept regarding edits.

The handling of the problems following vaccination may have contributed to low trust in the ministry, with a majority of respondents to a mid-2022 survey saying they don’t view the ministry as reliable, according to the comptroller’s report. His office said the low trust may have contributed to the decline in non-COVID vaccinations among children in recent years.

Among the positive findings: the ministry worked well with health organizations to treat COVID-19 patients and promote vaccination.

The comptroller recommended improving the adverse event reporting system, ensuring there is enough staff to follow up on reported side effects, and gathering the missing reports to analyze them.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement that its adverse event reporting system enabled officials to be the first in the world to identify heart inflammation as a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccines and that the ministry “is still working today on improving the computerized system in order to facilitate reporting of side effects.”

Lia Onely contributed to this report.

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