Vaccines very effective in curbing Israel’s Covid infections, studies show

Digital health system yielding positive near real-time information on vaccine efficacy

Covid-19 vaccine being administered in Jerusalem: Israel finds less than 0.3 per cent of people had side-effects significant enough to report to doctors. Photograph: Abir Sultan

Covid-19 vaccine being administered in Jerusalem: Israel finds less than 0.3 per cent of people had side-effects significant enough to report to doctors. Photograph: Abir Sultan

 

The coronavirus vaccines administered in Israel are effective in curbing infection rates, the incidence of serious Covid-19 cases and at protecting against the British variant, according to new studies conducted by Israeli health funds.

Just 0.04 per cent of Israelis caught Covid-19 after two shots of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to Maccabi, one of Israel’s four health funds which administer the jabs.

Pfizer agreed to expedite the transfer of vaccines to Israel, hoping the country’s uniquely personalised and fully digitised community health system could provide near real-time information on the vaccine and its efficacy.

As of Thursday more than 36 per cent of the population had been vaccinated (with more than 22 per cent receiving both doses) and Israel remained on course to have the entire adult population who wished to do so receive the jab before the end of March.

Until now, vaccine eligibility has been limited to people 35 and older, or those in specific priority groups, such as medical workers and teachers, but from Thursday all adults can get the jab.

Field vs laboratory

Leumit, another health fund, began to collect and analyse the data on December 20th, when Israel’s vaccine drive began and released research providing invaluable insight into the effectiveness of the vaccine in the real world, as opposed to efficacy rates measured in the course of controlled experiments in laboratories.

“Ten days after [the second dose] there are almost no new confirmed cases,” said Prof Shlomo Vinker, the head of the medical division at Leumit. “In the first days following the first dose, there is an increase in the number of confirmed cases but beginning on the 10th day, you start seeing a drop. When you move to the second dose, you see another downward step, with a further drop a week later.”

A second Leumit study found that the Pfizer vaccine was similarly effective at protecting against the British variant of coronavirus.

Separate research from Israel’s health ministry also provides welcome news.

Peace of mind

In the world’s most detailed data on how people feel after a Pfizer Covid vaccine, Israel has found that less than 0.3 per cent had side-effects they felt were significant enough to report to doctors.

Health ministry officials hope the research will provide peace of mind for many around the world who are eager to get a picture of the vaccine’s impact.

However, the officials stressed that immunity from vaccines isn’t 100 per cent and it is still not known whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus even if they don’t get sick.

Despite the success of the vaccination drive, health officials admitted that the rates of inoculation among Israeli Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox community remain low and there had been a drastic drop in the overall vaccination rate in recent days.

Despite the vaccination rollout and an extended lockdown, there was no fall in the number of seriously ill coronavirus patients. The number of fatalities reached almost 5,000 on Thursday, a fact attributed by health officials to the fast-spreading British variant.