COVID-19 News

Israel concerned as Pfizer less effective on infection

The Daily Telegraph, Great Britain (United Kingdom), 6 July 2021, https://www.pressreade­r.com/article/2817713371­80782

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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.

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