Zero healthy individuals under the age of 50 have died of COVID-19 in Israel, according to newly released data.
“Zero deceased of 18–49 years of age with no underlying morbidities,” the Israel Ministry of Health (MOH) said in response to a formal request from an attorney.
Officials noted that the statement only applies to COVID-19 deaths where the MOH conducted an epidemiological investigation and had received information about the underlying diseases.
“Zero is a very, very clear number, and cannot be subject to interpretation,” Yoav Yehezkelli, a specialist in internal medicine and medical management, and former lecturer in the Department of Emergency and Disaster Management at Tel Aviv University in Israel, told The Epoch Times.
“Why were all the extreme measures of school closures, vaccination of children, and lockdowns needed?” he added.
The MOH did respond to a request for comment.
The information was sparked by a freedom of information request filed by attorney Ori Xabi, who has been filing several such requests as he seeks to obtain information from the MOH regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID-19 policies.
Xabi asked to know the average age of people who died of COVID-19, segmented by vaccination status at the time of death; how many COVID-19 patients with no underlying morbidities under the age of 50 died; and the annual number of cardiac arrest cases between 2018 to 2022.
According to the MOH response, the average age of vaccinated COVID-19 patients who died was 80.2 years. The average for the unvaccinated was 77.4 years.
The MOH emphasized that the data they have about the underlying diseases of patients is partial since it relies on information provided by the patients or their relatives, if they chose to do so. And then, only in cases in which the MOH conducted an epidemiological investigation.
Therefore “the available information does not necessarily reflect the health status of the patient” the MOH wrote adding that they do not have access to the patients’ medical records.
It is not clear why the MOH responded to Xabi’s request using only cases where the MOH had conducted an epidemiological investigation, and which was limited to deceased patients where the families had cooperated, since in 2020 the MOH told the Israeli Knesset—the Israeli parliament—that they use an intelligence system that provides the MOH with extensive information about deceased patients that included “underlying diseases.”
A document (pdf) from the Knesset Research and Information Center, dated June 7, 2020, stated that the MOH provided data to the Special Committee for the New COVID Virus about COVID-19 deaths—298 by that day at 4:30 p.m.—at the request of Yifat Shasha-Biton, a member of the Knesset, and the chair of that committee.
The ministry’s intelligence system has data on gender, age, district of residence, and the underlying diseases of the decreased, according to the document. The system showed that about 94 percent of the deceased were 60 years or older and that there were no deceased with zero underlying diseases.
In addition, on May 4, 2020, the Medical Directorate of the MOH in a letter (pdf) issued instructions to the heads of the hospitals and the medical departments of the Health Maintenance Organizations—national health care organizations—on how to fill out COVID-19 death notices, directing them to include underlying diseases.
In a December 22, 2020 letter (pdf) the Medical Directorate to the managers of the hospitals stated that for every COVID-19 patient who died during the acute phase or due to complications of the illness later, or people who were positive for COVID-19 who died, a death notice and a summary of the case “must be sent to the COVID war room of the MOH.”
They said the purpose was “to improve surveillance.”
“It’s a bit naive” for the MOH to say they do not have the full data and access to the death certificates said Yehezkelli, who was also a founder of a team that advises the MOH’s director general.
Yet this response from the MOH is meaningful, said Yehezkelli as “it finally reveals the truth.”
Studies and other data, including a study led by Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis, show that COVID-19 mortality, even with the original variant, was largely age-dependent.
“It was definitely a disease that actually only endangered the elderly,” Yehezkelli said.
Over the age of 60, mortality doubled every 5 years while under that age mortality was negligible, and “now we really see that it was zero under the age of 50, at least.”
The MOH’s response showed that the average age of the COVID-19 deceased is about 80 years of age, which also indicates that “this is a disease of the elderly, almost exclusively,” said Yehezkelli.
“That only means that what we were told for 3 years was not true,” he said.
There may not have been many young people who got seriously ill, yet the MOH had emphasized cases of pregnant women hospitalized in critical condition and young healthy people who died because of COVID-19. It was not the true situation, he said.
“They created a false presentation of a very severe epidemic that affects the entire population and therefore the entire population should also be vaccinated, regardless of age,” said Yehezkelli.
If we are talking about people under the age of 50 that means that no pregnant women actually died of COVID-19, he said.
The justification given for vaccinating pregnant women, young people, and children was that they too are affected by COVID-19.
It was known back then that this was not the case “and we now see it clearly,” Yehezkelli said, asserting that the MOH has “lost the public’s trust” by making a “false presentation” of the dangers of COVID-19.
In response to Xabi’s recent FOI, the MOH provided the number of cardiac arrest cases from 2018 to 2020. They added, “The information for the years 2021–2022 does not exist in the office.”
The MOH explained that “The registration of the causes of death of deceased persons is carried out, in accordance with the notification of death,” by the Central Bureau of Statistics, adding “the data for the years 2021–2022 have not yet been transferred to the Ministry of Health.”
A study published in April 2022 that analyzed the dataset of the Israel National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) found a 25 percent increase in EMS calls due to cardiac arrests among 16- to 39-year-olds between January–May 2021.
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in December 2020.
Retsef Levi, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, was one of the researchers of the study.
The MOH objected to the findings of the study in a post on Twitter where they said that “there is no connection between the EMS calls that were analyzed in the study and the COVID vaccines.”
In a MOH webinar on Oct. 8, 2021, about the effectiveness and the safety of the COVID vaccines, Dr. Sharon Elroy-Pries, the head of Public Health Services at the Israel MOH said regarding Levi’s study: “This is one of the biggest fake news I have seen.”
“The National Center for Disease Control did a very comprehensive analysis—including of the data of that study, [which were] EMS calls,” she said adding that “there was nothing. No more [cases of] heart attacks. No more calls to the ER.”
She continued by saying that “in the mortality data from the beginning of 2021, you don’t see an increase in mortality except for COVID mortality. That is, if we look at excess mortality in the State of Israel we see it precisely at the peaks that were peaks of [COVID] morbidity in the State of Israel.”
“When you remove the … morbidity from COVID at all ages, one sees either the same mortality rate as in previous years, or less,” she said, adding “there is no increase in heart attacks here.”
In a February 2023 meeting of the Health Committee of the Knesset for extending the COVID special powers law, Elroy-Pries reiterated that the MOH does have access to COVID mortality data.
“COVID has killed over 12,000 people in the State of Israel,” she said at the meeting, explaining further that this figure is known since “from the beginning of the epidemic, the Medical Directorate received people’s death certificates.”
When asked about whether there is an increase in cardiac arrest cases in Israel among young people, Elroy-Pries said, “We do not see an increase in the death of young people,” adding “We’re checking it. We’re looking for it.”
Levi said to The Epoch Times that the MOH attacked him personally and the EMS, and asked “If they don’t have data for 2021 and 2022 [according to the FOI], then how can they know that they don’t have an increase [in cardiac arrests]?”
When the MOH says things that are contrary to science, said Levi, or are “contrary to the facts on a regular basis, you must ask yourself the question: are they doing it because they didn’t bother to read the science, or are they doing it even though they … read the science.”
“Both scenarios are very serious,” he added.
The MOH did not reply to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
Yet about 2 hours after sending the request on May 25, the agency posted on its Twitter account a statement regarding Xabi’s FOI.
“Following the manipulation that has been taking place in recent days regarding one of the Ministry of Health’s [reply to] 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 ‘does not have’ access to the medical file [of patients], therefore information is only based on cases where an epidemiological investigation was carried out and the person or his family answered the question [regarding underlying morbidities]. Therefore, this is very limited information. This was of course clearly written in the answer [to the FOI].
“We will clarify: So far, 356 young people (18–49 years of age) have died of COVID.
“Of these, only about half have documentation of an epidemiological investigation (184 deceased).
“And only 7.5% (27 deceased) included an answer to the question regarding underlying diseases. The answer was provided based on this information.
“The Ministry of Health is committed to maintaining the health of all citizens and making the information available in the Ministry transparently. This is how we acted [so far] and will continue to act.
“We must not forget that the COVID epidemic has so far killed more than 12,500 people in Israel, caused severe and critical morbidity, and post-COVID symptoms that accompany some of those recovering to this day.
“The vaccination campaign 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 passport, which its purpose 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—the attempt to rewrite history is dangerous.”
Following an administrative appeal filed by Xabi and colleagues, the MOH committed to publishing all-cause mortality segmented by vaccination status and age by the end of this month.
This appeal is an ongoing case that followed a FOI request submitted to the MOH on Oct. 10, 2021, which was not answered within the time frame according to Israeli law, and the data provided by the agency during a number of hearings since has been incomplete.