Israel has recorded a decrease in the effectiveness of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in preventing infections and symptomatic illnesses. However, it said the vaccine remained highly effective in preventing serious illness.
Reports state that about 60% of Israel’s 9.3 million population have received at least one shot of Pfizer’s vaccine in a campaign that saw drop in daily cases from more than 10,000 in January to single digits in June. And this prompted the country to forego nearly all social distancing as well as wearing of face masks, which has been re-imposed in recent days. The rise in cases has been pointed to the delta variant.
The Israeli Health Ministry, as per Reuters, reported that vaccine effectiveness in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease fell to 64% since June 6. It said at the same time, it was 93% effective in preventing hospitalizations and serious illness from coronavirus. However, the ministry did not say what the previous level was or provide any further details.
In a report in May, the ministry officials stated that two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine provided more than 95% protection against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and severe illness. A Pfizer spokesperson did not comment on Israel’s report, but cited research showing that antibodies elicited by the vaccine were still able to neutralize all tested variants, including the contagious Delta – but at reduced strength.
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Eran Segal, Data Scientist of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, said the country was unlikely to experience the high levels of hospitalizations, which was seen earlier in the year since there were much fewer critically ill. He told Reuters it was fine to continue with life back to normal and without restrictions, while stepping up measures like COVID-19 vaccination outreach and ensuring testing for people returning from abroad.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel is sending 700,000 vaccine doses to South Korea in exchange for a future shipment of the jabs. In an official statement, Bennett said Israel will transfer the Pfizer BioNTech vaccines to South Korea in an effort to inoculate more of the Asian nation’s citizens this month. The agreement will reduce the holes in the vaccine’s availability. This is first of its kind agreement between Israel and another country.