Mass vaccination against SARS-Cov-2 in Israel demonstrates a 94% decrease in symptomatic cases.
Israel began its mass vaccination against SARS-Cov-2 on December 19, 2020, and to date, February 26, 2021; approximately 7.5 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered. Approximately 49% of the Israeli population has received one dose of vaccine and approximately 34% of the population two doses of vaccine.
Why is it so important to analyze Israel’s data?
Israel is a relatively small nation; in fact, its population is just over 9 million and was among the very first nations to begin vaccination; to date, it’s also by far the one with the highest percentage of those vaccinated.
Israel also has one of the most advanced health-care systems in the world, so it can provide us with important information about the efficacy of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Israel’s largest health organization, Clalit, reported that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduced symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% and severe cases by 92%. In addition, the data from Israel also demonstrates that this efficacy is the same for all age groups. The most concrete result to date has been the significant reduction in pressure on hospitals and intensive care units that had put Israel in great difficulty last spring.
In addition, analysis of the Israeli data, made possible by the widespread digitization of patient data, has also confirmed that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is highly effective after the second dose, as clinical trials have shown.
While this data is somewhat comforting, Israeli researchers say that they’re now seeing an increase in hospitalizations of young patients, and in any case, averaging under 60 and all those who remain unvaccinated. This represents another example of vaccine efficacy.
In order to increase the adhesion to the vaccination campaign, the Israeli Government is considering proposing the option of using services and activities currently closed, such as gyms, restaurants, shopping centers; only to those who will be vaccinated.
But what’s happening in the UK?
While Israeli data demonstrates that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 94% effective one week after the administration of the second dose (as expected from clinical trials), all European countries are struggling with the reality of dose limitation of anti-COVID-19 vaccines.
The general approach is to divide the doses in a way that ensures that those who received the first dose can receive the second within 3-to-4 weeks, as indicated by the European Medicine Agency (EMA).
The UK is to date, the only one in Europe to have adopted a different strategy, which is to vaccinate with a single dose the highest number of people and delay the inoculation of the second dose for 9-to-12 weeks. This decision, by the health advisors of the British Government, is based on the fact that for other vaccines, the immune response is stronger when the period of administration between the first and second dose is longer than 3-to-4 weeks. In addition, there are some studiesthat, although preliminary, confirm that even for the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccine, increasing the time between the two doses doesn’t worsen the effectiveness of the vaccines.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that 15 days after administration of the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the efficacy is 89%, and to date, there is no evidence that this efficacy decreases after 21 days.
How do other European countries feel about this?
To date, the strategy of other European nations follows the guidelines of the pharmaceutical companies and the EMA; however, the shortage of doses could change the minds of many. Germany, first, has moved in this direction stating that it’s carefully observing what the UK is doing and that it is considering the extension of the time period between the first and second vaccination.
In conclusion, the good news is that, as the data from Israel shows, vaccination is very effective, but unfortunately, vaccine doses are not sufficient to vaccinate enough people within a short time to generate herd immunity. Therefore, other strategies are needed and perhaps the path taken by the UK could become a valid and realistic alternative.
This post is also available in: Italiano