Is it really true that no healthy under 50s died from Covid-19 in Israel?

Heavily-infected cell. Image by NIAID, Wikimedia Commons

At the end of May 2023, I came across multiple, well-known, anti-vaccine Twitter accounts claiming that new Israeli data showed that there had been “No Known Covid Deaths in Healthy People Under 50.”

We know from ONS data that in England and Wales there were 4976 deaths involving Covid-19 in the under-50s since 2020, so it seemed unlikely that there had been none in Israel. I thought I’d take a look.

The tweet above linked to a freedom of information (FOI) request that was sent to the Ministry of Health in Israel.

Freedom of Information Request response from the Israeli Ministry of Health and the translation.

The first three questions asked for the average age of death from Covid-19 in the vaccinated, the unvaccinated, and those who had an ‘invalid’ vaccine at the time of death (I’m not sure if that refers to where the effect of a vaccination had waned and no boosters had been taken).

Unsurprisingly, the response showed that on average, unvaccinated people were dying at a younger age than the vaccinated. Also, unsurprisingly, none of the social media accounts sharing this FOI mentioned that part!

The fifth question was something for which they did not have the data to enable them to respond.

But it was question four that caused the controversy: “How many Covid-19 died without underlying conditions under the age of 50?”

The response from the Ministry of Health was: “Of the deceased from Corona for whom an epidemiological investigation was conducted, and the question regarding underlying conditions was answered, there were 0 deceased between the ages of 18-49 without underlying diseases.”

The Ministry pointed out that they only had details of any underlying conditions if the families had chosen to share that information, and that they didn’t have access to any of the medical records. This response made it clear that only a subset of deaths had undergone full epidemiological investigation, and only a subset of those had relevant underlying conditions shared.

But of course, this was then twisted, and spread on social media as “no healthy under-50s died.”

I have covered the issue of Covid-19 deaths and underlying health conditions previously, and the fact is that millions of people live full, long and healthy lives while also having underlying conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes. To dismiss the death of an otherwise-healthy 20-year-old with well-controlled asthma as not a REAL Covid-19 death is just cruel – AND dishonest.

At this point it was possible to conclude that people had simply misunderstood the FOI request; but then it got worse.

Elon Musk got wind of this misinformation and commented, with just “zero”.  2.7 million people saw this tweet, and 29,000 ‘liked’ it.

The Israeli Ministry of Health (MOH) had to reply, to say that this was dangerous fake news. They followed up with two more comments:

They explained they only had data available for 27 out of the 356 young people who had died of Covid-19 in Israel, and that they knew that young and healthy people had died from Covid-19 in Israel.

So was this correction enough to put the falsehood to bed?

No, of course it wasn’t! This tweet followed, from a well-known anti-vaccine account:

You can see that he deliberately cut the screenshot in half from the Israeli MOH comment to remove all the context, and then claimed they had “limited data” and shouldn’t have been making decisions about Covid-19 mitigations in children.

Obviously, the Ministry were not saying they had limited data in general, but that they had limited data on the underlying conditions of the people who died from Covid-19.

Any idea that the initial spread of misinformation was somehow an honest misunderstanding vanished with that tweet. Dr Eli David knew full well what he was doing by cutting that screenshot in half. He is also well aware that the vast majority of his followers won’t have seen the original comment, and so won’t know the context.

The Israeli MOH had to issue a full explanation, which, as is always the way, will be seen only by a tiny number of the people who saw Elon Musk’s tweet. All because some anti-vaccine grifters, who get a kick out of misleading their followers, felt the need to twist a freedom of information request.

The MOH response, as translated by Google, reads as follows:

“Following the manipulation that has been taking place in recent days on one of the Ministry of Health’s Freedom of Information requests, we will clarify that the answers to the requests submitted under the Freedom of Information Law are, naturally, answered directly to the specific question that was asked.

In this case, the ministry was asked about mortality data and underlying diseases. The Ministry of Health *doesn’t* have access to the medical files, so the information is only based on cases where an epidemiological investigation was carried out and the person or his family answered the question. Therefore, this is very limited information. This is of course clearly written in the answer.

We will clarify: so far 356 young people (ages 18 to 49) have died from corona. Of these, only about half have documentation for an epidemiological investigation (184 deceased) and only 7.5% (27 deceased) had an answer to the question about underlying diseases. Based on this information, the answer was given.

The Ministry of Health is committed to maintaining the health of all citizens and making available the information available in the Ministry transparently. This is how we acted and will continue to act.

We must not forget that the corona epidemic has so far killed over 12,500 people in Israel, caused severe and critical illness, and post-corona symptoms that accompany some of the recoveries to this day.

The vaccination operation began in the midst of a third lockdown that resulted from an increase in morbidity and mortality and the opening of the economy was made possible thanks to the activation of the green note, the purpose of which was to reduce the risk of infection in mass events.

The vaccines have saved thousands of people in the State of Israel and millions around the world – Trying to rewrite history is dangerous.”

Unfortunately, sending specifically-worded FOI requests is a very common anti-vaccine/Covid-denier trick. They do it knowing that they can then use the answer out of context. In this case it was even more disingenuous, as they sent it to the Ministry of Health, despite the Ministry not holding detailed medical records.

Another day, another anti-vaccine lie doing the rounds. It is exhausting and frustrating seeing this misinformation spreading regularly. It should be called out wherever possible because it is really beginning to take hold in real life, and not just as argument on social media.

Steve Kirsch recently tweeted saying “UN says confidence in childhood vaccines down 44% worldwide. The vaccine reaction. I’m going to personally drive this down by at least another 50% if not more.”

Such people are dangerous; worldwide vaccination programmes save millions of children’s lives, but for the ego-boost of a large social media following, they want to actively undermine these efforts.

We must do all we can to counter the lies that are seeding doubt in people’s minds.

If you would like to read more articles by Emma Monk, please click HERE.