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Israel sees probable link between Pfizer vaccine and myocarditis cases

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Israel's Health Ministry said on Tuesday (1 June) it had found the small number of heart inflammation cases observed mainly in young men who received Pfizer's (PFE.N) COVID-19 vaccine in Israel were likely linked to their vaccination, writes Jeffrey Heller.

Pfizer has said it has not observed a higher rate of the condition, known as myocarditis, than would normally be expected in the general population.

In Israel, 275 cases of myocarditis were reported between December 2020 and May 2021 among more than 5 million vaccinated people, the ministry said in disclosing the findings of a study it commissioned to examine the matter.

Most patients who experienced heart inflammation spent no more than four days in the hospital and 95% of the cases were classified as mild, according to the study, which the ministry said was conducted by three teams of experts.

The study found "there is a probable link between receiving the second dose (of Pfizer) vaccine and the appearance of myocarditis among men aged 16 to 30," it said in a statement. According to the findings, such a link was observed more among men aged 16 to 19 than in other age groups.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said last week that heart inflammation following vaccination with Comirnaty had been no cause for concern as they continued to happen at a rate that typically affected the general population. It added at the time that young men were particularly prone to the condition. Read more

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group last month recommended further study of the possibility of a link between myocarditis and mRNA vaccines, which include those from Pfizer and Moderna Inc.

CDC monitoring systems had not found more cases than would be expected in the population, but the advisory group said in a statement that members felt healthcare providers should be made aware of reports of a "potential adverse event." Read more.

Pfizer said in a statement that it is aware of the Israeli observations of myocarditis and said no causal link to its vaccine has been established.

Adverse events are thoroughly reviewed and Pfizer meets regularly with the Vaccine Safety Department of the Israeli Ministry of Health to review data, it said.

Israel had held off making its 12- to 15-year-old population eligible for the vaccines, pending the Health Ministry report. In parallel to publishing those findings, a ministry committee approved vaccinating the adolescents, a senior official said.

"The committee gave the green light for vaccinating 12- to 15-year-olds, and this will be possible as of next week," Nachman Ash, Israel's pandemic-response coordinator, told Radio 103 FM. "The efficacy of the vaccine outweighs the risk."

Israel has been a world leader in its vaccination rollout.

With COVID-19 infections down to just a handful a day and total active cases at just 340 across the country, the economy has fully opened, though restrictions remain on incoming tourism.

About 55% of Israel's population has already been vaccinated. As of Tuesday, restrictions on social distancing and the need for special green vaccination passes to enter certain restaurants and venues were scrapped.

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EU Digital COVID Certificate - ‘A big step towards a safe recovery’

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Today (14 June), the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission attended the official signing ceremony for the Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, marking the end of the legislative process.

Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa said: “Today, we are making a big step towards a safe recovery, to recover our freedom of movement and to boost economic recovery. The digital certificate is an inclusive tool. It includes people who have recovered from COVID, people with negative tests and vaccinated people. Today we are sending a renewed sense of confidence to our citizens that together we will overcome this pandemic and to enjoy travel again, safely and freely across the European Union.”

Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen said: “On this day 36 years ago, the Schengen Agreement was signed, five member states at that time decided to open their borders to one another and this was the beginning of what today is for many, many citizens, one of the biggest achievements of Europe, the possibility to travel freely within our union. The European digital COVID certificate reassures us of this spirit of an open Europe, a Europe without barriers, but also a Europe that is slowly but surely opening up after most difficult time, the certificate is a symbol of an open and digital Europe.”

Thirteen member states have already started to issue EU Digital COVID Certificates, by 1 July the new rules will be applicable in all EU states. The Commission has set up a gateway that will allow member states to verify that the certificates are authentic. Von der Leyen also said that the certificate was also attributable to the success of the European vaccination strategy. 

EU countries will still be able to impose restrictions if they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health, but all states are asked to refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on the holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate

EU Digital COVID Certificate

The aim of the EU Digital COVID Certificate is to facilitate safe and free movement inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. All Europeans have the right to free movement, also without the certificate, but the certificate will facilitate travel, exempting holders from restrictions like quarantine.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate will be accessible for everyone and it will:

  • cover COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery
  • be free of charge and available in all EU languages
  • be available in a digital and paper-based format
  • be secure and include a digitally signed QR code

In addition, the Commission committed to mobilising €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument to support Member States in providing affordable tests.

The Regulation will apply for 12 months as of 1 July 2021.

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Parliament president calls for a European Search and Rescue Mission

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European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) has opened a high-level interparliamentary conference on managing migration and asylum in Europe. The conference focused particularly on the external aspects of migration. The president said: “We have chosen to discuss today the external dimension of migration and asylum policies because we know that only by tackling the instability, crises, poverty, human rights violations that occur beyond our borders, will we be able to address the root causes that push millions of people to leave. We need to manage this global phenomenon in a human way, to welcome the people that knock on our doors every day with dignity and respect.
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on migration patterns locally and worldwide and has had a multiplier effect on the forced movement of people around the world, especially where access to treatment and healthcare is not guaranteed. The pandemic has disrupted migration pathways, blocked immigration, destroyed jobs and income, reduced remittances, and pushed millions of migrants and vulnerable populations into poverty.
 
“Migration and asylum are already an integral part of the external action of the European Union. But they must become part of a stronger and more cohesive foreign policy  in the future.
 
“I believe it is our duty first of all to save lives. It is no longer acceptable to leave this responsibility only to NGOs, which perform a substitute function in the Mediterranean. We must go back to thinking about joint action by the European Union in the Mediterranean that saves lives and tackles traffickers. We need a European search and rescue mechanism at sea, which uses the expertise of all actors involved, from Member States to civil society to European agencies.
 
“Second, we must ensure that people in need of protection can arrive in the European Union safely and without risking their lives. We need humanitarian channels to be defined together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We must work together on a European resettlement system based on common responsibility. We are talking about people who can also make an important contribution to the recovery of our societies affected by the pandemic and demographic decline, thanks to their work and their skills.
 
“We also need to put in place a European migration reception policy. Together we shoulddefine the criteria for a single entry and residence permit, assessing the needs of our labor markets at a national level. During the pandemic, entire economic sectors came to a halt due to the absence of immigrant workers. We need regulated immigration for the recovery of our societies and for the maintenance of our social protection systems.”

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Mainstream media risks becoming a threat to public health

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In recent weeks the controversial claim that the pandemic might have leaked from a Chinese laboratory - once dismissed by many as a fringe conspiracy theory - has been gaining traction. Now, US President Joe Biden has announced an urgent investigation that will look into the theory as a possible origin of the disease, writes Henry St.George.

Suspicion first arose in early 2020 for obvious reasons, the virus having emerged in the same Chinese city as the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which has been studying coronaviruses in bats for over a decade. The laboratory is located just a few kilometres from the Huanan wet market where the first cluster of infections emerged in Wuhan.

Despite the glaring coincidence, many in the media and politics dismissed the idea outright as a conspiracy theory and refused to consider it seriously throughout the past year. But this week it has emerged that a report prepared in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California had concluded that the hypothesis claiming the virus leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan was plausible and deserved further investigation.

So why was the Lab Leak Theory overwhelmingly dismissed from the get go? There is no question that from the mainstream media’s perspective the idea was tarnished by association with President Donald Trump. Granted, skepticism of the President’s claims surrounding any given aspect of the pandemic would have been warranted at almost any stage. To put it euphemistically, Trump had shown himself to be something of an unreliable narrator.

During the course of the pandemic Trump dismissed the seriousness of COVID-19 repeatedly, pushed unproven, potentially dangerous remedies like hydroxychloroquine, and even suggested at one memorable press briefing that injecting bleach might help.

Journalists also reasonably feared similarities with the narrative of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, whereby vast threats were cited and assumptions granted to an antagonistic theory with too little evidence to back it up.

However, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that a general animus felt towards Trump by large swathes of the media brought about a large-scale dereliction of duty and failure to uphold objective standards of journalism as well as science. In reality the Lab Leak was never a conspiracy theory but a valid hypothesis all along.

Suggestions to the contrary by anti-establishment figures in China were also summarily quashed. As early as September 2020, the ‘Rule of Law Foundation’, connected with prominent Chinese dissident Miles Kwok, appeared on the title page a study that alleged the coronavirus was an artificial pathogen. Mr. Kwok’s long-standing opposition to the CCP was sufficient to ensure the idea was not taken seriously.

Under the pretense that they were combatting misinformation, the social media monopolies even censored posts about the lab-leak hypothesis. Only now – after almost every major media outlet as well as the British and American security services have confirmed that it is a feasible possibility – have they been forced to backtrack.

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts,” a Facebook spokesman said, “we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.” In other words, Facebook now believes that its censorship of millions of posts in the preceding months had been in error.

The consequences of the idea not having been taken seriously are profound. There is evidence that the lab in question may have been conducting what is called “gain of function” research, a dangerous innovation in which diseases are deliberately made more virulent as part of scientific research.

As such, if the lab theory is in fact true, the world has been deliberately kept in the dark about the genetic origins of a virus that has killed over 3.7m people to date. Hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved if the key properties of the virus and its propensity to mutate had been understood sooner and better.

The cultural ramifications of such a discovery cannot be overstated. If the hypothesis is true - the realization will soon set in that the world’s fundamental mistake was not insufficient reverence for scientists, or inadequate respect for expertise, but not enough scrutiny of mainstream media and too much censorship on Facebook. Our main failure will have been the inability to think critically and acknowledge that there is no such thing as absolute expertise.

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