Israel’s Recent Surge Confirms We Need A Multimodal Strategy To Fight Covid-19

With a surge of Covid-19 infections at the highest levels since February, Israel is now contemplating further lockdowns and the possibility of extending booster vaccine shots to those over 50 years old. This comes after administering booster shots to about 2,000 immunocompromised people weeks ago before extending the shots to all those over 60 on August 1. Cases are occurring in both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, yet with one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, Israel’s experience confirms that no single modality will control Covid-19 alone, as the virus continues to evolve and mutate. We need a multi-modal strategy to contain Covid-19.

July report from the Israel Ministry of Health found that Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine is just 39% effective in Israel, where the Delta variant is the dominant strain but still provides strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization. According to the report, the vaccines still work very well in preventing severe cases, demonstrating 88% effectiveness against hospitalization and 91% effectiveness against severe illness. But this is still is a steep decline from the earlier estimate of 64% efficacy rate released on July 5, and steeper still from the initial 95% efficacy rate Israel published in May, based on records from Jan. 24 to April 3, 2021.

The Israel report contrasts with data from the UK government that shows the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant two weeks after the second dose, compared to 93% effectiveness against the Alpha Variant during the period from 5 April to 16 May.

Interpreting vaccine efficacy data is a complex task that requires considering many nuances such as the size of the study’s population, the dates and length of observation, multiple types of vaccines in circulation, and many other variables. But one thing is clear, there is a distinct waning in the effectiveness of the immunity and protection that the vaccine provides over time.

As one of the quickest countries to roll out the vaccine, Israel acts as the canary in the coal mine for us all, especially in the United States, where we have few other modes of public health protections. As weary as many of us are about Covid protocols and interventions, we must not remain complacent, as this virus is far from running out of tricks.

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Originally published on Forbes on August 11, 2021
© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.