What Israel's Lesson on the Vaccination Campaign Teaches Us

What Israel's Lesson on the Vaccination Campaign Teaches Us

Vaccinations are high, the results encouraging. And so the leading country in anti-Covid vaccinations is preparing to reopen, cautiously and gradually. And not without fear

(photo: Shai Pal / Unsplash) Many had said it, we had remembered it too: Israel was a more than interesting case to understand the effectiveness of vaccinations, more so than the United Kingdom. For a combined number of factors. On the one hand, the availability of vaccines is certain and the early start of the campaign, close to their approval (especially Pfizer, but not only). But also the small size of the country, and still an organized system, largely digitized, which has accelerated the administration of vaccines. As a result, Israel currently tops the country in terms of the number of vaccinations in relation to population. Over 55% have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 40% of the population is fully vaccinated, about 80% of those over 60 (Our World in Data data). And the effects of this extensive vaccination campaign are beginning to be seen, they assure from Israel.

This was recalled by Ran Balicer, Senior Advisor to the Israeli government and Chief Innovation Officer of the Israeli health insurance Clalit, during an international conference dedicated to precisely to the Israeli vaccination campaign. He did so by presenting the data - already published - on the progress of infections after the start of the vaccination campaign. Real world data that partly replicates what has been observed in clinical studies: if in fact the one that led to the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine speaks of 95% effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of the disease, the data collected in the country are not to be less, showed Balicer, illustrating the work that sees him among the signatories and published in the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study conducted at Clailit, explained Balicer, was able to replicate the same result in the real world, with a 94% reduction in symptomatic infections and 92% in severe forms of disease. A study in which about 600,000 vaccinated people who were perfectly matched (by age, sex and clinical conditions) were compared with another 600,000 who had not received the vaccine, and which precisely for this reason, unlike aggregated population studies, allows for to be able to extrapolate information on the effectiveness of the vaccine itself, separate from that of other measures, such as lockdown. Indirectly, however, also the trend of serious cases and hospitalizations in the populations most at risk - the older ones - can give some clues, more than that of infections (from the peak of eight thousand in the third wave, daily infections are about 4000 in the country). And even in this case the data would seem encouraging, as also pointed out by our local scientists, who have long been calling for a quick pass in vaccinations.

As we talk about red zones from Israel this news arrives (daily data from the January peak):

-63% deaths

-56% cases

-46% new critically ill patients

-36% critically ill hospitalized patients @segal_eran pic.twitter.com/0qwcZ5lUg7

- Roberto Burioni (@RobertoBurioni) March 1, 2021

Once again, the data collected by Our World In Data photograph the situation in the country (stopped a few days ago, however), and show a decrease in cases of serious request hospitalization. With a decline that first affected the older population, which received the vaccines first, then it began to affect the younger population as well, Balicer noted. In reality, even considering that the data are still a few days ago, some categories - such as the under 60s - the trend is not (at least not yet) so pronounced. The number of deaths since the peak in January is also decreasing, and has fallen by about a third.

It was not an easy process. The vaccination campaign required, as expected, as happens everywhere, a good deal of logistics, experts admit. Relying on a highly digitized process, which made it possible to easily identify who should receive the vaccination, certainly helped, explained Balicer, adding as a clear and transparent system of communication on the population that is gradually eligible (starting with the age criterion as well as the health personnel class) certainly contributed to the campaign itself. Concept on which Balicer has focused, also with regard to the fight against vaccination: "When we do not know something we do not say do not worry, we say we do not know, and we explain how decisions were made in a condition of uncertainty. ... this helps to create a feeling of trust ".

While encouraging data arrive from many quarters - and not only from Israel - suggesting that running with vaccinations can lead to benefits, the aim still cannot today consider limiting the spread of the disease or achieving herd immunity in the coming months, Balicer said. This cannot be the aim not only because there are no certain data on the real effectiveness of vaccines currently available in blocking transmission, but also because it is an unattainable goal since a large portion of the population itself is not eligible, by virtue of the the fact that we are talking about children under 16 for whom there are no tested and approved vaccines. Of course, however: the expected benefits, and in part observed, with mass vaccination campaigns will hopefully lead to look beyond, to new reopening for example.

This is how Israel proceeds cautiously and above all gradually, as Sharon Alroy-Preis, Public Health Services Head at the Israeli Ministry of Health who spoke at the conference also reiterated, to reopen. The experts recalled that next week, for example, restaurants should reopen. And the reopening will not only accompany the maintenance of the spacing and mask measures but will also see the use of a so-called Green Pass. A sort of entry key for public places that is issued to people who have already had a coronavirus infection and have been vaccinated (in the first case valid for six months from the second dose or until the end of next June in the second).

A risky and premature choice, however, that of early openings despite the high vaccination rates, comments neurobiologist Giorgio Gilestro of Imperial College London, an attentive observer of the situation on his social pages. Especially in the face of the fear of variants.

All this can be seen well in the data from Israel that made exactly this mistake by releasing too early and without giving the vaccination the time it needs to act. A little about the risk of ending the antibiotic early. 9/11 https://t.co/ad1G37B30l

- Giorgio Gilestro (@giorgiogilestro) March 3, 2021

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Coronavirus Israel Vaccines Coronavirus vaccine globalData.fldTopic = "Coronavirus, Israel , Vaccines, Coronavirus Vaccine "

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