The number of cases and hospital admissions in Israel is declining sharply among vaccinated age groups, the first clear sign worldwide that Covid-19 injections are preventing disease after a massive vaccination campaign.
According to an analysis by a team at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the daily number of cases among people aged 60 and older is down 46 percent from its mid-January peak, compared to a much smaller 18 percent drop among people under the age of 60. 60 years. at Tel Aviv University.
The country has been in a lockdown since January 8 that initially pushed affairs across all ages down at a similar pace, but the striking divergence in the trajectory between the older citizens – who got the shots – and younger people has emerged in the aftermath of the world’s fastest vaccine rollout. The country has so far administered more than 57 doses per 100 inhabitants.
Eighty percent of Israelis 60 and older had received at least their first dose of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine by January 15, with the massive rollout of the second dose beginning around the same time. On February 4, 78 percent of this group has now received two doses.
Hospital admissions of over-60s have already fallen 34 percent to below mid-January levels, while admissions among younger adults have remained flat and are now slightly higher than three weeks ago.
Similar patterns can be seen in both moderate and severe hospital cases, suggesting that the vaccine provides protection against not only mild illnesses, but also serious illnesses.
Vaccine manufacturers, including BioNTech / Pfizer, have created their products primarily to prevent disease in people infected with the coronavirus. But preliminary evidence suggests the vaccines also reduce the transmission of the virus.
When cases first started falling in Israel in the second half of January, it was initially unclear whether the cause was the vaccine or the national lockdown, but as more data has come in, more and more evidence points to the role of vaccinations .
“The effect is stronger [among older people] than in the younger populations that had to vaccinate later, and these patterns were not seen in the previous lockdown, ”said Professor Eran Segal, leader of the Tel-Aviv team that analyzed the data.
All eyes will now be on the UK and US – the two main countries closest to Israel in vaccine rollout – to see if there are similar patterns emerging. The results from the UK will be critical in assessing the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns due to the high prevalence of the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus, a mutation that can pose a challenge for some vaccines and 80 percent of new cases in Israel.
“The [Israeli] results are compelling and give us great hope, ”said Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine. “It is remarkable that within a month and a half Israel was able to vaccinate 78 percent of people over 60. This is what a coordinated vaccination campaign can achieve. “
The national-level figures of Israel were released on the same day as new data from Maccabi Healthcare Services, one of the largest healthcare providers in the country, which showed that a week after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, only 254 of the 416,900 humans had been infected with Covid-19.
Maccabi reported that all 254 infected patients had only mild symptoms, and only four of them were hospitalized in moderate condition. This compared to an unvaccinated control group where 12,944 of the 778,000 tested positive for coronavirus.
According to the comparison between the two groups, the vaccine’s efficacy is currently estimated at 91 percent seven or more days after receiving the second dose.
“The data clearly indicates that as the days pass from the second dose, the defense capabilities of our immune system become stronger,” said Dr. Anat Ekka-Zohar, director of the Data & Digital Health division at Maccabi Healthcare Services.
“In addition, our data has proven that patients who contract the Covid-19 virus after vaccination have a milder disease course.”
Israel’s vaccination coverage has fallen in recent days, however, as supplies of the Pfizer vaccine have slowed, according to officials from key health care providers, and vaccination skepticism is becoming apparent among the younger population.
The number of injections administered dropped from an average of 200,000 per day to just over half that number on multiple days this week, even as the age restrictions were lifted so that anyone over the age of 16 could make an appointment.
“Most importantly, all Israeli men and women over 50 are vaccinated,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a national address this week. Get vaccinated. The vaccines work. “
Israel plans to slowly step out of its lockdown, even before its entire adult population has had a chance, in the gamble that it has reached a critical mass of vaccinated citizens that will control the spread of the B.1.1.7 mutation .