Israel made headlines shortly after the first COVID-19 vaccines hit the market for leading the world in terms of vaccination numbers, but now they’re in the spotlight for an entirely different – but not unrelated – reason: The country is experiencing an unprecedented new wave of infections.
According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data, last Wednesday saw a record-setting 1,892 COVID-19 cases per million individuals in the country, which represents almost 0.2% of the country’s population in a single day. This is significantly higher than the country that ranks second on the list, Mongolia, with 1,119 per million and double the figures for positions 3 through 5 – Kosovo, Georgia and Montenegro, with 980, 976, and 909 respectively.
In Israel, 78 percent of people aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated, largely with the Pfizer vaccine. More than half of the country’s new cases are among fully vaccinated people.
Since mid-August, Israel has been regularly reporting some of the world’s highest infection rates despite its status as one of the planet’s most vaccinated nations. The only good news coming out of the country is the fact that COVID-19 deaths during this fourth wave in Israel are only about half of those seen during the country’s second wave. Although some believe this suggests the vaccines do protect people against severe illness with COVID-19, that doesn’t explain why fatalities have suddenly been climbing sharply in the last month.
Israel has a booster campaign underway despite vaccines’ lack of protection
However, instead of looking at why cases are rising again and whether or not being vaccinated could be contributing to the latest spike in some way, the country has instead decided to start offering boosters to people. In July, they started giving those older than 60 a booster and have now expanded the drive to encompass anyone over the age of 12 who has already received two doses of the vaccine.
The situation in Israel is prompting concerns around the world that highly immunized countries remain highly vulnerable to yet another wave of infections.
One country that won’t be jumping on the booster shot bandwagon just yet is the UK, where only those with severely suppressed immune systems will be given a third vaccine dose. The country’s health authorities believe that their longer two-dose strategy, which saw Brits receiving shots spaced out by as many as 12 weeks rather than the three-week gap recommended, may have created better immunity among the population.
They have also thus far resisted the calls to routinely vaccinate children, even as Canada, the U.S., France and Spain proceed with vaccination campaigns among younger people.
Meanwhile, American health authorities have released figures showing that vaccine efficacy is beginning to wane, with the Pfizer and Moderna shots only cutting the risk of hospitalization among elderly people by 75 percent against the Delta variant, compared to the 95 percent seen when the shots first became available.
A study carried out by King’s College London found that two doses of the vaccine become significantly less effective at stopping infections within mere months. For example, the protection afforded by two shots of the Pfizer vaccine dropped from 88 percent at one month to 74 percent at six months, while Astra Zeneca’s efficacy dropped from 77 percent to 67 percent.
It is interesting to note that Israel’s spike despite its high vaccination levels is coming at the same time as the neighboring area of Palestine is noting a drop in cases despite more than 90 percent of its population being unvaccinated.
Sources for this article include: