Israel concerned as Pfizer less effective on infection
The Daily Telegraph, Great Britain (United Kingdom), 6 July 2021, https://www.pressreader.com/article/281771337180782
THE efficacy of the Pfizerbiontech vaccine in preventing Covid infections has declined by nearly a third in Israel largely due to the spread of the delta variant, data from the country’s health ministry suggest.
The vaccine has a 64 per cent success rate, the latest figures from early June to early July show, down from 94 per cent a month earlier. The decrease coincides with a period in which the government reversed coronavirus restrictions and the delta variant spread through the country.
The vaccine is still conferring strong protection against severe symptoms of the virus, with hospital admissions remaining low. The ministry’s data show the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing hospitalisation was 93 per cent from June 6 to July 3, compared with a 98 per cent rate in the previous period.
But the rising cases offer a “preliminary signal” that the vaccine may be less effective at preventing mild symptoms from the delta variant, Ran Balicer, the chairman of Israel’s national expert panel on Covid, said yesterday.
While stressing it was “too early to precisely assess vaccine effectiveness against the variant”, he said: “Some decrease in vaccine effectiveness
against mild illness – but not severe illness – is likely.” The delta variant’s emergence as the “dominant strain” in Israel has led to a “massive shift in the transmission dynamic”, Mr Balicer added.
Yesterday, Israel reported the highest rate of new infections in three months, with the ministry recording 343 new cases over the past 24 hours.
After a peak of over 10,000 new cases in one day in January, new daily cases had fallen to the single digits in June.
In the past fortnight, 90 per cent of new cases have been caused by the delta variant. About half of new cases have been detected in fully vaccinated patients, and about half in children, with a handful of returning travellers testing positive.
Experts “remain hopeful that the vaccine effectiveness against serious illness will remain as high as it was for the alpha strain”, Mr Balicer said.
The number of fully vaccinated Israelis experiencing severe symptoms after contracting the virus had increased from roughly one every other day up to five per day, Mr Balicer estimated.
“It is encouraging that we still maintained zero deaths for the last 12 days,” he added.
A Pfizer spokesman declined to comment on the data from Israel but told Bloomberg that other research suggested the vaccine provided ongoing protection against new mutations.