Study Says It’s Safe to Get a Fourth Covid Shot

A vial of Pfizer-Biontech Covid-19 vaccine in a Clalit health care maintenance organization, in Yerushalayim. Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

By Shmuel Smith

YERUSHALAYIM — As health authorities in the U.S. and Europe gear up for a winter drive to distribute fourth Covid shots, an Israeli study shows that it’s safe to do so, according to The Times of Israel reported Monday.

“We believe this study provides safety assurances to the global population who are eligible to receive an additional Covid-19 booster inoculation,” wrote Prof. Dan Yamin of Tel Aviv University’s Center for Combating Pandemics, in an article published in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

“These assurances can help increase the number of high-risk individuals who opt to receive this booster vaccine, and thereby prevent severe outcomes associated with Covid-19.”

There is widespread reluctance to get a fourth shot, as the need for vaccination seems less urgent than it was at the height of the epidemic, and safety concerns have persisted.

For example, in Israel, whereas 6.1 million people agreed to a second shot, only 900,000 so far have rolled up their sleeves for a fourth.

In the U.S., two months after the CDC recommendation for a fourth shot, only 21.5% of eligible individuals got one.

Studies indicate that vaccine hesitancy is mainly motivated by safety concerns rather than efficacy considerations, Yamin said.

The study focused on regular Pfizer shots, which are still in common use, as opposed to those which were adapted to be more effective against more recent variants.

Researchers first analyzed anonymized medical records of 17,814 patients who took a fourth shot to detect side effects or “adverse events,” none of which occurred.

As an additional precaution against the possibility that patients weren’t reporting side effects that they experienced, the research team had a group of Maccabi Healthcare patients wear smartwatches that monitored several physiological indicators, including heart rate. A mobile app asked the patients daily to complete a self-reported questionnaire on their health.

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