On Thursday, new data from Israel and the United Kingdom offered a confusing and contradicting picture of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine’s efficiency in combating the Delta version of the coronavirus.

According to new Health Ministry data, the Pfizer shot — the vaccination provided to practically all Israelis — is currently just 39 percent effective against infection and 41 percent effective against symptomatic COVID. Previously, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine proved successful against infection in more than 90% of cases.

Meanwhile, according to a new UK study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine, the same vaccine is 88 percent effective in avoiding symptomatic COVID, which is more than double the percentage observed in the Israeli data.

At least, Israel’s studies concurred that the shot was highly effective in preventing serious sickness, with a 91.4 percent effectiveness rate.

Some analysts have warned that the figures on vaccine effectiveness are prone to major inaccuracies because of a range of factors, including questions over whether there is accurate data on infection levels among the non-vaccinated, which is vital for such stats.

The Israeli data likewise appeared to present a picture of protection that deteriorates over time as a result of diminishing immunity. People who were vaccinated in January were estimated to have only 16 percent protection against illness now, but those immunized in April had 75 percent protection.

Doctors point out that such data may represent not only the passage of time since vaccination, but also a bias in which those who immunized early were frequently those with health concerns and who are more susceptible to infection, such as the elderly.

Reacting to the Israeli figures on Thursday, epidemiologist Nadav Davidovitch, a Ben-Gurion University professor and leader of Israel’s doctors’ union, told The Times of Israel, “What we see is that the vaccine is less effective in preventing transmission, but it’s easy to overlook that it’s still very effective in preventing hospitalization and severe cases.”

Davidovitch added: “It’s still excellent, very good in preventing severe cases and death, but less so in preventing transmission. And this is why we can’t rely on vaccinations alone, but also need Green Passes, testing, masks, and the like.”

Davidovitch stressed that all figures should be treated as preliminary and with limited relevance given the relatively small numbers of positive patients at the moment. “It’s quite early to comment, as the number of positive people is still quite low,” he said.

He spoke after ministers agreed to reinstate the Green Pass, which restricts attendance at large events to those who have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or present a valid negative test result.

Starting on July 29, the new restrictions will apply to both indoor and outdoor events with more than 100 participants. Only people over the age of 12 will be required to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test from the previous 72 hours. There will be no restrictions for children under that age.

The coronavirus cabinet, a high-level ministerial forum tasked with leading the government’s pandemic response, approved the decision. It still needs to be approved by the government, and it will be voted on Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting.

(Source: The Times of Israel)

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