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Israel and Covid: Is the drug deadlier than the disease?

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ISRAEL’S nine million people, and Gibraltar’s 34,000, are among the most Covid-19 vaccinated in the world, almost entirely using the Pfizer mRNA injection.  But after a fall in cases, both communities are now once again seeing a rapid rise in infections.

Sacrifices made in life and liberty are beginning to look less worthwhile – a fact that French legislators seem to have overlooked this week in requiring Covid vaccine passports for a wide range of normal life activities.

Governments and media commentators internationally praised Israelis and Gibraltarians as they did their best to support scientists and politicians trying to minimise damage wrought by SARS-COV-2, the genetically engineered virus (see here and here and here) first identified in Wuhan, China.      

Less attention was given to the fact that Gibraltar suffered the highest Covid mortality rate in the world, proportional to its small population, during the first three weeks of a vaccine rollout that began on January 10 this year.  

Despite the opportunity for a focused inquiry that could have shed light on the vaccine’s safety, regulators failed to look into claims that the jab itself, in the frail and elderly people who received it first, contributed to this tragic loss of life, the worst in Gibraltarians in over 100 years.

More than 78,000 doses were administered, reaching close to 100 per cent of the population, as well as some visiting tourists and workers.

Residents went along with promises that the jab would prevent a renewal of the lockdowns they suffered last year, which were hugely socially and economically damaging. 

But today Gibraltar is experiencing a surge in breakthrough infections.  More than 700 people are in self-isolation, and there are over 260 active Covid cases, although only seven of those are receiving treatment in hospital. 

Globally, regulators have downplayed deaths and injuries associated with the Covid vaccines, insisting that the protection they offer against the disease offers the best way out of the crisis. 

In Israel this week, however, the health ministry reported that 2,260 new infections were diagnosed on Tuesday alone, a high not seen since mid-March.   

Across Israel there are now 14,365 confirmed cases, described as ‘skyrocketing’  by the Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva. Of those,258 are in hospital, 153 in a serious condition, and 35 are critically ill. 

It has not been revealed how many of these cases had received the vaccine.  More than five million Israelis have had both doses, but ‘vaccine hesitancy’ has grown, as news of the apparent dangers has spread, and the rate of full vaccination has slowed to a crawl.  

A study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reported this week by The Times of Israel, indicated however a fall in the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness over time, with those vaccinated in January having just 16 per cent protection against infection now.   Since elderly people, who respond less to the vaccine, were among the first to receive the jab, that failure is unlikely to be as great across the population as a whole.   

Nevertheless, the phenomenon of so-called breakthrough infections is causing mounting concern in the scientific community.  

The Israeli government has recognised the harm caused by lockdowns and to try to curb the resurgence in infections is focusing instead on mask-wearing, social quarantining, and reinstatement of a vaccine passport for events of more than 100 people in closed venues. 

It has also announced a continuing programme of vaccinations, and health ministry officials met on Wednesday to decide whether a third, booster dose should be provided to all elderly people.  Israel set a world precedent by administering a third shot two weeks ago to those with severely compromised immune systems.

If the world goes down the route of regular Covid jabs, as with the (largely ineffective) flu vaccine, it will be great news for Pfizer shareholders, but not for those who suffer the resulting injuries and deaths from the vaccine.

Nearly 6,500 deaths have been attributed to Covid in Israel, but one study claimed there were ‘orders of magnitude’ increases in death rates during a massive vaccination campaign beginning in mid-December.   

In the two months to mid-February, 2,337 deaths occurred, leading the study authors to conclude that ‘vaccinations have caused more deaths than the coronavirus would have caused during the same period.’ 

The Israeli People’s Committee, a team of doctors, lawyers, and scientists of various disciplines concerned at the impact of both the vaccine drive and civil rights restrictions on ‘our people’s welfare and the destiny of our country’, has announced an inquiry into what it called ‘suspected governmental and institutional criminality’ during the crisis.

It says the state has ‘systematically shut down all monitoring and tracking systems’ designed to identify vaccine adverse events, despite the experimental nature of the product.   

The result has been ‘an unprecedented flood of thousands of serious adverse event reports after the vaccine on social media, which seems to be the only forum that still allows people to share their experiences’. 

The gap between this reality and information published by the Israeli ministry of health and the media, is ‘inconceivably large’, the committee says, raising concerns of ‘a dangerous deception not only of Israeli citizens, but of citizens of the entire world, who view Israel as the research laboratory of Pfizer’s corona vaccine.   

‘Such a deception, whether negligent or premeditated, could create additional cycles of harm to humans around the globe. 

‘We wish to say to the Israeli government and governments throughout the world: A lack of transparency kills people. Deception and concealment lead to disability and loss of life.  Remove all confidentiality, create transparent and controlled reporting mechanisms; only then can lives be saved and further damage avoided from the very tool that is supposed to preserve health. 

‘Is this a case where the drug is more deadly than the disease?  Or is it equally, or less, deadly?  We can only come to a true conclusion if comprehensive data is revealed in real time and if the press, which is supposed to be free and a watchdog of democracy, will remain on guard and raise the alarm when necessary.  And it is indeed very necessary.’  

Meanwhile, Pfizer has applied to US regulators for full approval of its jab, arguing that the company’s data ‘confirm the favourable efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine’.     

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Neville Hodgkinson
Neville Hodgkinson is a former medical and science correspondent at the Sunday Times and the author of AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science, published in 1996 by Fourth Estate.

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