Israel's Health Ministry Thursday deleted comments on its site reporting COVID-19 vaccine adverse events. The Ministry had published official data regarding adverse events reported following the more than 3 million booster doses administered in Israel. Social media generated thousands of comments while responses appearing on the official Ministry page reporting various adverse events from the vaccine were redacted.
"I must say that following this post of yours, I am quite worried," wrote Yair Lavie, 45, from Raanana. "Until now I thought the Health Ministry knew about the number of adverse events but only silenced them. Now I understand that you haven't even seriously investigated the issue."
One of the deleted responses read: "I was vaccinated with two doses and after the second vaccination I was left with a dysfunctional hand that's writhing in pain, and a feeling of numbness that hasn't passed for half a year ... no vaccine's going to enter my body again." Another deleted comment read: "A close friend suffered from meningitis immediately after vaccination. Another friend contracted shingles. I know very many people suffering from severe fatigue. Most of the cases don't receive proper treatment or reporting by doctors and hospitals."
Channel 12 News' Inbar Tvizer quoted Michal Or who collected examples of deleted comments: "Hundreds of people wrote their own personal testimonies about adverse events after the vaccination. The Health Ministry deleted the reactions every few minutes. Some of us collected them and managed to take screenshots before deletion. The feeling is that there's no transparency and information is being hidden. There is no monitoring system or encouragement to report."
Nevertheless, writes Tvizer, many comments written on the post remained available even when harshly critical of the shots. The Health Ministry claims that the torrent of responses to the data's publication was an "organized and orchestrated attack by vaccine opponents."
Israel Democracy Institute law and technology expert Dr. Tehilla Schwartz Altshuler told Channel 12 News: "Official pages paid for with public funds should not delete comments from the network - unless they violate network rules or state laws. Massive deletion of responses therefore raises suspicions of an attempt to suppress public debate. The Health Ministry must be transparent to the public; publish complete data and not just slide shows, and be able to accept criticism."
The Coronavirus Information Center said in response: "The comments that are hidden are comments that include swearing, abusive comments, lies, fake news, links from fake news disseminators, etc. Some are hidden by Facebook automatically and not by page administrators. It should be emphasized that responses expressing disappointment or distrust, or reporting side effects - are not hidden or deleted in any way. If we did not want them to respond, we would close the posts to comments."