Israel has been at the forefront of rolling out vaccinations for adults and adolescents, pioneering the issuance of vaccine passports and, in recent months, has been at the forefront of the use of booster shots.
Currently, a person is not considered fully immunized in Israel until they have received their third dose of the vaccine, once they are eligible for the shot.
More than three months later, Israeli health officials say the data is clear: The booster shots helped bring down the fourth wave of the virus that swept the country in August and September.
At its peak, that wave saw more than 8,000 new Covid-19 infections per day and more than 500 concurrent hospitalizations in serious condition.
The current seven-day average is between 450 and 500 cases per day, and there are 129 people hospitalized in serious condition with the virus.
The data highlights a stark difference between those who got the vaccine – and booster – and those who didn’t: Over the past several days in the past month, more than 75% of positives were among those who didn’t. vaccinations, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
Among those hospitalized with Covid-19, this is even more apparent: Israeli officials said in October that the proportion of people over 60 in serious condition receiving just two doses of the vaccine was five times higher. times that of those who had three injections.
And although the total has dropped since then, the disparity remains: On Sunday, more than four times as many people over 60 were in serious condition with just two shots than those considered to be fully vaccinated. three doses, according to the Ministry of Health.
Lessons from Israel
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cited such data as why he thinks people will soon be advised that everyone should use boosters. when they qualify.
“If you look closely at the data from Israel, it’s very clear that the difference in immunodeficiency in the elderly is much more profound, but it still crosses the board,” Fauci told NBC last week. , Fauci told NBC last week.
The lesson from Israel is one that more and more countries are suffering, especially as cases rise to alarming levels in parts of Europe.
Health experts say the rollout of booster shots in many Western countries highlights the unfairness of vaccine deployment in other parts of the world.
In contrast, on average, only 10% of people in African countries receive their first dose, according to Our World In Data; Figures show that only 7% of the African population is fully vaccinated.
Fears of the fifth wave
But the news from Israel is not all good: Although the number of cases has dropped since September, the decline continues. And, even more worryingly, the ratio R – the average number of people infected with Covid-19 per person – is back above 1, according to health department data – a worrying sign that the virus could is spreading again.
Medical experts, such as Professor Eran Segal from Israel’s Weizmann Institute, say it is too early to say whether the country is entering a fifth wave of the virus. But they point to the fact that nearly 1.5 million people who received two doses of the vaccine did not return for a booster shot.
“There are more people whose vaccines have run out over time, when compared to the number of new vaccines and boosters, leading to a slow decline in totals.” [population’s] Segal tweeted last week.
Now Israel is working to prevent that potential fifth wave: Officials are encouraging unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and those who qualify for a booster dose to get vaccinated. They are also getting children vaccinated and keeping up with the precautions.
According to Israeli health officials, many of the new infections in Israel are among children aged 5 to 11 years old. A vaccination campaign for that age group began on Monday.
Dr Ran Balicer, Chairman of Israel’s Covid-19 National Expert Advisory Council, told CNN last Friday: “About 50% of our daily infections occur in the under-11 age group. “We think this vaccination campaign can really turn the tide and could bring us back down if we have a good chance,” he said. [in vaccinations], as we hope we will. ”
But even with a highly vaccinated population, health experts say it is important that anti-Covid measures are maintained, especially during winter, when activities move indoors.
Nachman Ash, Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Public Health, told Israel’s Channel 13 that part of the reason for the increase in cases is that people are not following rules like wearing masks.
“Execution isn’t enough,” Ash said. “And I see the public getting comfortable as time goes on and infection rates go down, so people are less careful. So yeah, we have to step up enforcement.”
Balicer warned that ignoring the waning immunity of people who’ve had two doses of the vaccine “could, in fact, put people at risk with false reassurance.”
“There is no magic bullet enough to guarantee stopping the surge, especially in winter,” says Balicer. “It’s a combination of measures: Indoor masks, population behavior, indoor event restrictions and green certificates, and an effective ramp-up campaign.