On Monday, June 21, researchers from the Institute of Hematology at Shamir Medical Center in central Israel announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can cause thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), an autoimmune disease that affects the blood.
TTP most commonly attacks small blood vessels around the body by causing blood clots (thrombi) to form. These clots can cause serious health problems if they fully block the vessels and restrict blood flow to the body’s organs such as the kidneys, heart and brain. (Related: Pfizer vaccine linked to heart inflammation in young men, Israeli experts conclude.)
The researchers from Shamir Medical were alerted to the problem after seeing a surge in TTP cases. Before the coronavirus pandemic, medical institutions in Israel would only detect a handful of cases per year. Now, health experts are seeing many cases every month.
The team that conducted the research said they found a “chronological connection” between the vaccination of Israelis with the Pfizer vaccine and the onset of TTP symptoms. They stressed that symptoms can arise in both newly-vaccinated individuals and in people whose TTP symptoms flared up after a long period of remission.
Despite the findings of the study, the research team behind it still supports vaccinations against COVID-19.
A spokesperson for Shamir Medical stressed that the study should not deter people from getting vaccinated. He encouraged anybody who has not yet been vaccinated to do so immediately.
Dr. Maya Koren-Michowitz, lead researcher and head of the Hematology and Translational Hemato-Oncology Laboratory at Shamir Medical, recommended that people with TTP get a medical clearance from their doctors before they get vaccinated. And if they do proceed with getting the coronavirus vaccine, she has asked these people to go to regular clinical evaluations to make sure they do not get blood clots.
The researchers have also called on vaccinated and “healthy people” to be vigilant and seek medical help immediately if TTP symptoms appear.
“Physicians and patients need to be alert to the clinical symptoms [of TTP]: weakness, fatigue, neurological disorders, hemorrhage and chest pain,” wrote the research team in a press release.
They pointed out that early diagnosis, combined with modern medical treatments, has increased the survival rate of TTP patients from 10 percent in the past to around 80 percent today.
The Israeli Ministry of Health is in the process of evaluating the research. Until the evaluation is complete, the ministry has asked the researchers from Shamir Medical to not consent to any further interviews.
Israel experiencing post-vaccination wave of infections
Israel is one of the most vaccinated nations in the world. According to the New York Times’ Covid World Vaccination Tracker, 61 percent of the entire population had already received at least one vaccine and 57 percent were fully vaccinated. The country’s vaccination rate is only topped by three other countries – Bahrain, Malta and the United Arab Emirates.
Even though the high rate of vaccination can supposedly prevent further infections, Israel has been experiencing an uptick in new coronavirus cases in recent days.
This new post-vaccination wave is being blamed on the rise of the delta variant of the coronavirus. On Wednesday, June 23, the Health Ministry registered 148 new coronavirus cases. This is the country’s highest daily increase since early May.
In response to the rise in cases, Israeli coronavirus czar Dr. Nahman Ash said the country was reinstating its indoor mask mandate beginning Sunday, June 27.
Ash added that the government was working on bringing more Pfizer vaccines to Israel despite the latest research proving the vaccine’s deadliness.
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