Israel has been the most aggressive country in the world in vaccinating their population. They paid a premium to obtain the Pfizer vaccine early on and used it initially for their elderly population, 60 years of age and older. The results are now just being observed and are impressive. They truly indicate that vaccination will eventually end the pandemic.
Data presented in a series of tweets by Eran Segal from the Weizmann Institute and now presented in an unreviewed manuscript, show that vaccination has impressively reduced new infections and hospitalizations in Israelis over age 60.
First, to demonstrate how effective Israel’s COVID-19 immunization campaign has been, by February 2nd 2021, 42.8% and 27.6% of the entire Israeli population (88.9% and 77.7% of individuals older than 60 years old) had received the first dose or both doses of the vaccine, respectively, or recovered from COVID-19.
Segal and his co-authors looked at the early effects of the vaccination campaign and examined changes in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over time, comparing individuals above 60 years old (first eligible to receive the vaccine) and younger individuals 0-59 years old who just recently have vaccine access. They also compared cities that vaccinated earlier in time with later vaccinated cities. To control for the fact that Israel is under a lockdown order, they also compared data from the current lockdown versus a previous lockdown imposed on September 2020.
In mid-January, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations started to decrease, with a larger and earlier decrease among older individuals.
This trend was more evident in early-vaccinated compared to late-vaccinated cities. In 60+ year old Israelis (first to vaccinate) in the past three weeks the data were highly significant: ~41% less COVID-19 cases, ~31% fewer hospitalizations and ~24% fewer critically ill cases. This data suggests a real-world efficacy of up to 90% for prevention of illness by vaccination.
The reductions in infections and hospitalizations were much more dramatic that anything seen in prior lockdowns.
It is truly remarkable that only six weeks after the start of the vaccination campaign there was such an impressive reduction in illness and hospitalizations. This is also likely the best data we will ever obtain since as more individuals get the vaccines there won’t be a “control group” of unvaccinated people for comparison.
Incidentally, for those who will want to dismiss this data as a harbinger of what is possible because of the threat from “variant” SARS-CoV-2 viruses, the worst data for any vaccine with the South African variant (with multiple significant mutations) is 50% protection in the Novavax trial; the other vaccines do better, and all provide full protection against the U.K. strain. Making a booster for the South African strain is actually simple, especially with the RNA vaccines; you simply change the RNA sequence!
Please everyone, stop arguing about the value of vaccination and let’s facilitate the vaccination of EVERYONE! We could be only months away from normal life!