New data released on Thursday by an Israeli health care provider gives us the first glimpse of the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in the real world.
According to The Times of Israel, Maccabi Healthcare Services provided an update on a sample group of 523,000 people a week or more after they had received the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Thus far, there have been no reported deaths of those in the group.
The health maintenance organization reported that “544 were infected with COVID-19, of whom 15 needed hospitalization: Eight are in mild condition, three in moderate condition, and four in severe condition.”
Dr. Miri Mizrahi Reuveni, a senior Maccabi official, told the outlet this data amounts to a 93 percent effectiveness rate, which is close to the 95 percent effectiveness cited after Pfizer’s clinical trials.
“This data unequivocally proves that the vaccine is very effective and we have no doubt that it has saved the lives of many Israelis,” Reuveni said.
The 544 people who became infected represent only 0.104 percent of the 523,000 who were vaccinated. The article explained that this “reflects a larger proportion of people getting infected since its previous vaccination stats.”
“But a rise is expected, as the statistic is cumulative, with infection numbers inevitably increasing as each day passes. This doesn’t impact the effectiveness rate, which is a measure of infection levels among vaccinated people and unvaccinated people compared over any chosen time-frame,” the outlet said.
While it’s way too early to declare victory, this is extraordinary news. If these results are duplicated in other large-scale studies, it could signal the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed approximately 2.4 million people and wrought economic devastation throughout the world.
In a Feb. 1 tweet, Eran Segal, a quantitative biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, wrote, “We say with caution, the magic has started.”
Israel: We say with caution, the magic has started
Note blue lines, of 60+ years old (first to vaccinate), in the past 2 weeks:
~35% drop in cases
~30% drop in hospitalizations
~20% drop in critically ill
Stronger than in younger people & not seen in previous lockdown
— Eran Segal (@segal_eran) February 1, 2021
As The New York Times reported last week, Israel is leading the world charge in vaccinating its citizens.
“So far, more than a third of its population of more than nine million people has received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and nearly two million people have received a second dose,” according to The Times.
As a comparison, U.S. providers are steadily administering, on average, about 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines per day. Nearly 30 million people in the nation have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 7 million people have been fully vaccinated.
However, the initial excitement among Israelis over the vaccine looks to have cooled and the number of those seeking vaccinations has fallen noticeably.
In the Times of Israel article, Reuveni urged, “Anyone who has not been vaccinated so far, please hurry up and make an appointment as soon as possible.”
“Protect yourself from a serious illness and, God forbid, death as well as the possibility that you will infect and endanger others.”
There are challenges in front of us, to be sure. We’re hearing that the vaccines are proving effective against some of the new variants of the virus, however, NPR reported that the vaccines may be less effective against a strain recently found in South Africa.
Even as scientists, governments and medical professionals continue grappling with these issues, it must be said that the development of an effective vaccine, let alone multiple vaccines, in under one year is an astounding achievement.
Although former President Donald Trump was not in the labs himself working on the vaccine, I am convinced that, absent his stewardship of the process, the world would still be waiting for it. I’d be willing to bet that neither failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton nor current President Joe Biden could have accomplished this.
The world owes Trump a debt of gratitude.
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