Israel’s Trailblazing Vaccine Campaign Puts a Dent in Infections

Israel hits 2 million vaccinations as researchers find a 33% reduction in spread of the coronavirus 14 days after the first injections.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

With tens of thousands of Israelis lining up for their second shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, research by the Clalit health maintenance organization shows that among 200,000 people aged 60 and over there was a 33% reduction in the spread of the virus 14 days after the first of the two required doses was administered – whether or not they got the shot, Ynet reported Wednesday.

The research showed that the vaccine protects those who got the vaccination not only from contracting the coronavirus, but also prevents those who are immune from spreading the disease to others should they still be carrying the virus.

That development is a huge validation of the vaccine, because researchers simply didn’t know whether it would help prevent those who had received it from being carriers of the virus.

As of Thursday, two million Israelis have received the first of two vaccinations produced by the American company, and over 110,000 people have already received their second shot, administered three weeks after the first. Full protection is expected two weeks after the second vaccination.

The clinical research was conducted by Clalit, the largest of Israel’s four HMOs, showing a significant drop in infections among a study group of 200,000 people aged 60 and over two weeks after the first vaccinations were given. A key feature of the research project was that not all of the 200,000 people in the study received the vaccination, allowing Clalit’s research team to verify the effectiveness of the vaccination program with a representation of the general population.

For those who received the first shot, there was no visible effect on general infection rates for the days, said Prof. Ran Balicer, head of innovation at Clalit.

The data showed a slight fall in morbidity on day 13, but by the 14th day after the first vaccination there was a 33% drop in the spread of the disease from those who were vaccinated to people who had not received the shot – indicating that antibodies had kicked in by then.

Israel’s vaccination campaign began Dec. 20 and is the largest controlled population in the world to get the vaccine. In a deal struck with Pfizer by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli health officials, the drug company agreed to advance millions of doses of their vaccine to Israel, and Israel would share the data and results with both Pfizer and the World Health Organization.

Using Israel as a living laboratory, Pfizer and health officials will use the data to find the best way of rolling out vaccinations to other countries.

So far the Israeli health experts believe that the data shows a significant drop in the spread of the virus. Prof. Balicer said that although the results are only preliminary, they are “very encouraging.”

“It is important to bear in mind that these results do not show that there is full protection from the disease,” Balicer told Ynet. “Therefore, those who have been vaccinated must still be cautious, wear a face mask and adhere to public health orders” in order to protect those around them, he cautioned.


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