Cautious optimism in Israel that boosters work

Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine Photo: Reuters

As Israelis over 40 began getting their third jabs today, the number of serious Covid cases is falling, even though overall new infections are still rising.

There is cautious optimism in Israel that the booster campaign, in which older Israelis are being given a third Pfizer Covid vaccine dose, is proving effective against the Delta variant, as the number of serious Covid cases is falling, even though overall new infections are still rising.

Weizmann Institute of Science computational biologist Prof. Eran Segal tweeted today, "For the fifth consecutive day, the rate of doubling in the number of people seriously ill has been broken. This morning there are 594 people seriously ill but according to the previous rate there were expected to be 768 today. The direction is good but we have to wait to see that it continues. There is one clear conclusion. Go get vaccinated."

Despite the fact that nearly 5.5 million of Israel's 9.3 million population (the vast majority of the adult population) have received two doses of the vaccination, the Delta variant has been rampant this month, and there is clear evidence that the vaccination's efficacy has been waning. Recent data from Israel's Ministry of Health found that the Pfizer vaccine for somebody over 65 inoculated in January was less than 55% effective against severe illness and hospitalization, compared with 95% in January.

Consequently, Israel began vaccinating Israelis over 60 with a third jab of Pfizer Covid vaccine at the end of July. The rollout was extended to over 50s last week and today to people who are 40 plus. 1.27 million Israelis have already received their third jab and the initial results are encouraging. There was an average of nearly 8,000 new cases daily over the past week, up from nearly 6,000 last week and yet despite this 33% rise, the daily average of serious cases has fallen from 102 to 88. This would appear to support claims that the booster is working.

There is also cautious optimism that the fall in efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine administered six months ago is due to the time that has lapsed rather than the Delta variant's ability to evade the vaccine. But more data is needed on that matter.

Meanwhile just as the world, or at least that part of it fortunate enough to receive sufficient vaccine supplies, watched Israel's highly successful rollout at the start of the year, and took encouragement from the country's ability to quell the third Covid wave in the winter, now the world watches anxiously as the Delta variant sweeps through Israel.

In an editorial this week entitled "Israel's worrying fourth wave," the "Financial Times" said that, "Since late last year, Israel has been a laboratory for the world. After winning early access to BioNTech/Pfizer jab supplies in exchange for sharing data on its effects, Israel was the first country to celebrate fully reopening its entire economy after double-jabbing 70% of its adult population by early April. Now, one of the world’s most-vaccinated nations is among the first to experience an alarming fourth wave of infections - and hospitalisations - and is rushing to give booster shots. The rest of the world should take notice."

The FT noted that the Biden administration in the US has recommended booster shots from next month, in part after looking at the Israeli data, and the UK is also planning a booster campaign.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, determined to avoid a lockdown during the Jewish holidays next month, is heavily invested politically in the success of the boosters. When the boosters were opened to over 40s today, Bennett, 49, went to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba to get his jab.

Bennett said, "Israel is the pioneer of the third dose of the vaccines. We’re seeing profound efficacy of the vaccines, it’s working, it’s safe. You can protect yourselves, your livelihoods, our economy, our security, our kids’ health. We can beat Delta, but it’s up to all of our cooperation."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 20, 2021

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021

Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine Photo: Reuters
Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine Photo: Reuters
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