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Israel Health Ministry attacks study, avoiding public debate

Israel answers study showing correlation between vaccine campaign and ambulance calls with flimsy refutation and brush-off

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David Heller

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May 03, 2022

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02:32 PM

Israel Health Ministry attacks study, avoiding public debate

A study published last week in the journal Nature looking at heart-related emergency calls for ambulances in Israel before, during, and after Israel’s vaccination campaign found a 25% increase in ambulance calls involving cardiovascular events for ages 16-39 compared to the same period in the two previous years.

The authors of the study were MIT professor Retsef Levi, Eli Jaffe, a Director at Magen David Adom (MADA) Israel’s national ambulance service, and MIT postdoctoral fellow Christopher Sun.

The authors reached out to Israel's Health Ministry early on in their research to get more data that could help explain the correlation between the vaccination campaign and heart-related ambulance calls for young people. The Ministry refused to cooperate with the requests.

Before the study’s data and conclusions were formally published, the Ministry dismissed its findings by saying the study was not published nor peer-reviewed.

Now, after the study has passed peer review and has been published in Nature, a highly reputed science journal, the Health Ministry chose to attack the study on social media and released a presentation of its critiques. 

MOH’s critiques in context

First, the Ministry reassures the public by saying they looked into the ambulance calls mentioned in the study and determined that there was no connection to the vaccination. The Ministry has not released the complete data on the 981 ambulance calls in question so we'll have to take their word on this.

The Ministry provides overall percentages indicating what happened to the patients after the ambulance calls to show that most were not that serious. This is irrelevant to the conclusion of the study, though, since the study's endpoint was a comparison between the number of cases this year and in previous years.  The study did not address the severity of the cases in any year.

The same goes for the Ministry’s point that just because the paramedic catalogues the call as an “acute coronary syndrome” (ACS) or “cardiac arrest” (CA) doesn’t mean that’s what the patient was suffering from – as later determined in hospital. This “error” in determination would also have occurred in previous years.

The Ministry points out that 2019 saw an even larger increase in calls compared to 2018, however, if 2021 is compared to the prior five-year average (as opposed to just 2019 as in the study) the increase is even greater.   

MOH’s troubling past with transparency 

In an interview after the Health Ministry’s response, Professor Levi expressed disappointment with the Ministry’s continued lack of transparency and cooperation, saying that if they want to show no connection between vaccination and these ambulance calls, they could just release the data (without identifiers to protect patient privacy) he said so that he and his colleagues could analyze them.

The MOH was invited to join Levi for an online discussion about the study and to defend its position, but the MOH ignored the invitation. 

Openly sharing data on the vaccination campaign and its effects on the population was touted as an advantage when Israel signed up to be the world’s laboratory for the Pfizer vaccine.

Instead, the Ministry of Health has refused numerous requests for information including the vaccination status of pregnant women who suffered miscarriages, and other pregnancy complications.

The Ministry deleted hundreds of replies to their Facebook post touting the safety of the booster shot, after thousands of people complained about the adverse reactions they had.

The objectivity of Israel’s Health Ministry regarding Pfizer has been called into question since Pfizer became the healthcare system's largest donor in 2017, donating over US $110 million in contributions during the last four years 2017-2021.   

Cardiac calls increase around the world

An increase in ambulance calls and cardiovascular cases among the young is not unique to Israel.  Scotland saw a 118% increase in the number of cardiovascular cases among 15-44-year-olds. In Germany during the vaccine rollout, there was a significant increase in admissions due to cardiovascular events.  Many weeks saw 50% more admissions compared to recent years. England’s ambulance service saw a 30% rise in cardiac calls, and Queensland, Australia saw a 40% increase.

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