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Fact Check-Israeli doctor’s remarks taken out of context

A screenshot shared on social media shows the headline of a news article that quotes a senior doctor in Israel talking about COVID-19 patients in his ward.

“80% of serious COVID cases are fully vaccinated”, the headline from the English language report in Israel National News says, with a sub-heading that reads: “Vaccine has “no significance regarding severe illness,” says Prof. Jacob Giris.”

The report on Israel National News (here) explains that Giris, Head of Medicine and Corona Department at Tel Aviv Medical Center, made the remarks in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 news. The interview, in Hebrew, can be seen here . The Israel National News report carries further comments from Giris around the difficulty of defining serious COVID-19 cases, when many patients being treated in hospital are already very ill.

Reactions to the screenshot on social media suggest some believed the doctor’s remarks were proof that COVID-19 vaccines are not required. “Some people have known the jab was useless since the beginning. Useless for the everyday person anyway. Why was it so important to exempted politicians to force it on us?” wrote one Twitter user.

However, Giris told Reuters that his comments had been incorrectly interpreted as a suggestion that COVID-19 vaccination was not necessary. In the Channel 13 news interview, he did make the remarks quoted – but also strongly advised receiving the vaccine.

Giris explained he had observed that the ratio of vaccinated against unvaccinated was similar in his ward as it was to the population at large.

“The profile of the disease has changed and it mainly harms people at risk, with background illnesses,” he said, referring to the Omicron wave.

He added that he advised COVID-19 vaccination because “we do not know what the future wave will look like, and if it is characterized by a serious illness then without a doubt, you should get vaccinated.”

Speaking to the news outlet Ynet (here), Giris gave further details as to how the latest wave had impacted the way cases were recorded.

“Defining a serious patient is problematic. For example, a patient with a chronic lung disease always had a low level of oxygen, but now he has a positive coronavirus test result which technically makes him a ‘serious coronavirus patient,’ but that’s not accurate. The patient is only in a difficult condition because he has a serious underlying illness,” he said.

Israel’s Ministry of Health website tracks COVID-19 statistics, including hospitalisation and death rates by vaccination status (here) . Graphs show the rate of hospitalisations and deaths per 100,000 for those over 60 have been consistently higher for those not vaccinated, compared to those fully vaccinated.

VERDICT

Missing context. The quotes given in a TV interview by Professor Jacob Giris refer to trends he had seen in his own hospital in the latest wave of COVID-19 in Israel. Giris was not suggesting vaccination was unnecessary and continues to advise people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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