COVID-19: Israeli study proves ‘safety’ of 4th dose of vaccine

According to a study recently published in a peer-reviewed journal, Israeli research is “offering new assurances to the world’s population on the safety” of injecting the fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As winter begins in the northern hemisphere and coronavirus cases are expected to rise sharply, health workers in many countries are struggling to convince people of the usefulness of the second booster shot.

The first three doses were widely accepted and considered part of the original vaccination protocol.

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But when the population became eligible for the fourth dose (and fifth in various countries including Israel), resistance was greater. The safety criterion is more questionable today, as injections are seen by many people as less urgent than they used to be.

While in Israel 6.1 million people received a second dose, only 90,000 people consented to be given the fourth.

A new study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine presents the first-ever large-scale research dedicated to the safety of administering a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“We believe this study will bring reassurance to the population worldwide who are eligible for a new COVID-19 booster shot,” writes Professor Dan Yamin of the Center for COVID-19 in his Tel Aviv University Anti-Pandemic study with their colleagues. authors.

“These assurances can help increase the number of high-risk individuals who choose to have this reminder, thereby preventing the potentially serious consequences of COVID-19 infection.”

Yamin worked with doctors and analysts from the Maccabi Health Fund, who provided patient data, to study the safety of the fourth dose. The study focused on the standard Pfizer vaccine, which is still in widespread use, rather than those that have recently been modified to be more effective against new variants.

A nurse prepares a coronavirus vaccine in Jerusalem, August 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The study was conducted in two parts. The first consisted of analyzing the anonymized medical records of 17,814 patients who had received a fourth dose of the vaccine to detect any side effects or side effects. The authors wrote that “Compared to the 42 days before and after vaccination, the second booster dose was not associated with any of the 25 cases of adverse events studied.”

Despite the unequivocal conclusion of the data, there is always a chance that patients may experience adverse reactions that they do not need to report. For this reason, researchers recruited Maccabi patients who agreed to wear smartwatches that monitored their health status and also provided access to their medical records.

These watches monitored several physiological measurements, including heart rate. A mobile application also asked patients to complete a daily health questionnaire. For comparison, they included patients in the process who had received the third dose of vaccine at the time of data collection.

The researchers found that there was no noticeable difference in responses to the fourth vaccine. “We found no significant difference after the first or second booster dose,” they said.

Administering the fourth dose resulted in an increase in heart rate compared to the baseline heart rate – the heart rate before vaccination. A heart rate that remained elevated for the first three days after the injection and peaked on the second day. However, it returned to baseline by day six, which is considered a reasonable return to normal.

Dan Yamin from Tel Aviv University (Moshe Baderashi)

Yamin and his colleagues believe their study can help build confidence in the fourth dose and also help overcome a major hurdle that hinders its uptake. They write: “Despite the fact that Pfizer’s second BioNTech vaccine booster has shown efficacy in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, with the added benefit of a promising safety profile, there is a public reluctance to get vaccinated around the world.” to let “.

“In the United States, two months after the CDC’s recommendation, only 21.5% of eligible individuals had followed the suggestion to opt for the second booster shot. Studies show that reluctance to use COVID-19 vaccines is largely driven by safety concerns, not efficacy concerns. Building confidence in the recall requires instilling knowledge about the safety of the vaccine, as the knowledge gap has so far been filled by unscientific and somewhat speculative theories.”

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