After four weeks of the world's fastest coronavirus vaccination program, the number of infections and deaths in Israel has not yet fallen. However, studies suggest that the sting could slow the rate of infection by up to 50 percent.
While more than 20 percent of the Israeli population received a starting dose, infection rates are highest with more than 8,000 people testing positive per day and a record of 1,102 people in hospital with Covid-19.
With scientists saying the vaccine typically takes a week or two to protect, Israel expects new hospitalizations to begin soon.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli Ministry of Health official gave the rest of the world a glimmer of hope by announcing initial findings that the vaccine could not only stop symptoms but also reduce the risk of transmission.
Initial studies using data from Israel's globally successful vaccine trial suggest that the first dose of Pfizer / BioNTechjab can contain infections by up to 50 percent after 14 days – which raises hopes that the vaccination effort will be even more dramatic.
With Israel launching the world's fastest vaccination program, distributing 1.9 million doses in less than four weeks, studies of hundreds of thousands of people may provide the most extensive real world data on the vaccine's effectiveness.
Sharon Alroy Price, Director of Health for the Department of Health, announced the 50 percent figure for Channel 12's news, but cautioned that the results are preliminary and must be treated with caution.
Separately, two studies by health care providers Maccabi and Calit showed that infections decreased by 60% and 33%, respectively, after an initial vaccine dose.
The preliminary studies, which examined hundreds of thousands of patients, were both published in Israeli media, although the data behind them were not made available to the public, meaning no explanation was given for the discrepancy in their numbers.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has warned Israelis to remain cautious even after an initial dose of the vaccine, fearing they might still catch the disease.
There were daily Covid-19 infections in Israel on Tuesday, and active cases all hit time highs. On Tuesday, Israel reported 9,997 new cases – the highest in a 24-hour period – and 46 deaths, after a record 67 deaths on Monday
Israel is way ahead of other countries in vaccination, delivering 23.66 doses per 100 people as of Jan. 14. The second highest rate was achieved by the UAE at 14.1 per 100 people. By comparison, the UK gave 4.52 per 100 people
Initial studies using data from Israel's vaccination campaign suggest that the first dose of the Pfizer sting reduces coronavirus infections by up to 50 percent after 14 days. Pictured: A woman is vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Golan Heights annexed by Israel
Dr. Sharon Alroy Prize, director of public health at the Ministry of Health, told Israel's Channel 12 that the research was preliminary and stressed the need for caution – even with those who received the first dose of shock.
Alroy-Price noted that there was insufficient data to conclude that the vaccine will stop the transmission of Covid-19 because it is believed that one person could still transmit the virus to others for a limited time if it did is still in her nasal cavity.
She added that almost a fifth of the more than 1,000 serious Covid-19 patients in the country had previously received their first vaccinations.
"Seventeen percent of the new serious cases today or 180 cases are after the first dose," she told reporters.
On Tuesday, Israel hit Covid-19 infections daily and active cases all hit time highs, and despite the optimistic signs, the country's health minister also stressed that extreme caution should still be exercised.
The vaccine is expected to give a person 95 percent immunity to Covid-19 one week after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. The launch of the second dose in Israel is slated to begin this week, according to The Times of Israel.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Yuli Edelstein, the country's health minister, warned there was a risk of contracting the virus within two weeks of the sting and said Israelis should remain vigilant.
"Those who get the first shot should still be very, very careful with their behavior because of their partial resistance to the disease," said Edelstein.
Israel has made a leap forward in the global vaccine race by squeezing every last dose out of its vaccine supply and using its efficient health system to launch a 24/7 vaccination campaign with military aid. Pictured: mass vaccination center in Tel Aviv
"In my mind it's like the scene from the movie, in which you almost escape danger and catch a bullet at the very last minute."
He added, "It shows what we already knew, namely that full 95 percent protection is achieved after two shots."
In the two studies carried out by the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), the data of around 400,000 patients treated by them (a total of 800,000) were compiled, the reason for the currently unclear discrepancy (60 percent and 33 percent) being.
The Clalit study compared the test results of a group of 200,000 people who had been given the vaccine to a sample of 200,000 Israelis who had not received the sting.
The full results of the study have yet to be published or reviewed by experts.
Israel's vaccination program is the fastest in the world to date and has given the vaccine to more than two million people – around 20 percent of the population.
The program runs 24/7 even on Jewish Shabbat Day and is backed by hundreds of Israeli combat medics who have been singled out for service.
Given that only 40,000 people were screened in Pfizer's Phase 3 trials, the Israeli vaccination campaign data could offer some of the best indicators of the effectiveness of vaccines against the coronavirus.
The Times of Israel reports that the last figure given by officials was 1,910,330 – despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding a celebratory event on Tuesday to celebrate the 2 millionth vaccine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the anti-coronavirus vaccination facility in the northern Israeli Arab city of Nazareth on January 13, 2021
Israel has reported a total of 520,060 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, with 3,817 deaths.
On Tuesday, Israel reported 9,997 new cases – the highest in just 24 hours – and 46 deaths, after a record 67 deaths were recorded on Monday.
As in many countries, Israel faces a second wave of viruses in winter after the number of new infections and associated deaths fell in November.
On January 5, the government announced a two-week national full lockdown, effective January 7. The lockdown is expected to expire at the end of the month, but it will almost certainly be extended as new cases and deaths continue to rise.
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