Studies in Israel have offered tentative optimism on the effectiveness of vaccines in curbing the coronavirus pandemic, with initial data suggesting even the early stages of inoculation campaigns might have marked decreases in both hospitalisations and infections.
With one in three Israelis having received at least one shot, a far higher fraction than anywhere else, the country of 9 million people provides a test case for the worldwide vaccine push.
The state’s 24/7 campaign has meant many vulnerable populations, including around 70% of over-60s, have already received the prescribed two doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine. Currently, the country is injecting up to 200,000 people a day, and last week made the jab available to anyone over 35. Secondary school students aged 16 to 18 are also included, in the hopes of allowing them to sit exams.
Israel’s health ministry released its first official results last week, showing that only 317 out of 715,425, or 0.04%, of people became infected a week after becoming fully vaccinated against the disease – the time when increased immunity is expected to kick in. Of the vaccinated people who were infected, 16 had to be hospitalised, or 0.002% of the total.
One domestic healthcare provider, Maccabi Healthcare Services,, released a smaller study on Thursday that also raised spirits. It revealed that out of 163,000 Israelis given both shots, only 31 were infected, compared with nearly 6,500 infections among a control group of unvaccinated people.