IsraelThe booster injection program has been shown to be effective in reducing severe cases of Covid even as new infections hover at record levels, experts have said, AFP reports.
Since taking office in June, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has insisted he will try to avoid any further lockdowns, a promise his government has kept even as the country of roughly 9.3 million people regularly registers more than 10,000 new cases. of Covid per day.
Schools opened on September 1 and synagogues are scheduled to welcome the faithful, with some restrictions, for Yom Kippur, the most important day on the Jewish calendar, when services begin on Wednesday night.
To stay open, Israel has opted for a complex policy mix that has caused frustration for families who were forced to organize repeated Covid tests for their children to attend school or participate in other activities.
The backbone of Bennett’s strategy has been launching a third injection of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine for everyone 12 and older, ignoring criticism that the booster jab is unnecessary and unfair.
But the 49-year-old prime minister insisted this week that his approach was working.
“A lot of people were skeptical,” he told his cabinet. “But our strategy is testing itself.”
Leading public health experts, citing recent data, agreed and told AFP that although daily cases remain high, the booster vaccine has halted the rise in severe Covid cases, averting a crisis that was unfolding. brewing last month.
On Wednesday, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine also confirmed the finding.
The researchers examined data relating to 1.1 million Israelis aged 60 and over, who had received two doses of the vaccine at least five months earlier and then either received a booster or not.
After 12 days, those who received a third injection were 11 times less likely to have a confirmed infection and 20 times less likely to develop severe Covid than those who did not.
But when cases began to rise again over the summer, health experts were faced with a key question, said Gabi Barbash, a former director general of the Ministry of Health who now works at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences.
Was the increase caused by the decreased effectiveness of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine five months after the second puncture, or was the Delta variant’s ability to break through the vaccine’s protection to blame?
But weeks after the third jab launch began, the severe case count, which soared from more than 70 in late July to 600 in mid-August, has leveled off, currently below 700. Infections also continue being very low among triple jabbed.
Those factors, Barbash told AFP, make it clear that “decreased immunity is what caused the fourth wave.”
“And when such waning immunity meets such transmissible variants (like Delta), it’s a disaster.”
He acknowledged criticism, particularly from the World Health Organization, that offering third blows was unfair to some poor countries struggling to deliver even a single shot.
But Barbash argued that Israel’s small population would not emphasize global vaccine supplies and stressed that if Israel had not given injections, it could have seen 1,000 deaths per month.
More than 7,400 Israelis have died from Covid-19.
Cyrille Cohen, a professor of life sciences at Bar Ilan University and a member of the health ministry’s vaccine committee, cited data from more than 60 demographic groups to highlight the impact of the booster shot.
“If you are not vaccinated, you are about 35 times more likely to develop a severe case if you are over 60, and about eight times more if you have two doses and no booster shots,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism