COVID-19 data in Israel continues to confound the logic of one of the most heavily vaccinated countries, as it has one of the world’s highest infection rates. With CNN data, TrialSite reveals that Israel’s infection rate per 100,000 persons equals 12,116. When removing small countries and territories under 1 million persons, Israel has the 5th highest infection rate in the entire world. With a nationwide vaccine program that led key high-risk age groups to near-universal vaccination, this wasn’t supposed to happen and should be a wake-up call for health authorities around the world to at least learn more about why this could be the case.

Is a vaccine-centric strategy, the effort to eradicate the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen via mass vaccination, working? While clearly the vaccines reduce the severity at least most of the time thus far, that doesn’t address the bid to eliminate transmission nor waning levels of vaccine effectiveness after month four or five. To date, only 1.8% of people in low-income nations have received even one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from Our World in Data.

This is a very serious matter. With wide-reaching vaccine mandates and passports in ever more countries, the zeal to use novel vaccines to resolve this problem takes us all on a slippery slope toward what will be societies we may not recognize. TrialSite is not a platform to oppose vaccines—in fact, the team is pro-vaccine and pro-science. That’s exactly why we include this brief reminder of what’s unfolding in this important country. While the government and public health agencies have locked into a regimented, war-like approach to fighting off COVID-19, what if the data indicates that the strategy won’t produce the results we sought in the first place?

The Data

TrialSite analysts observed the high rates in Our World in Data and sought to verify which was accomplished with CNN. As of September 3, 2021, the actual data indicates that at 12,116 cases per 100,000. Thus Israel has the highest COVID-19 infection rate among the major nations. 

Last week, TrialSite received vaccination data from Herzog Hospital, which indicated significantly high vaccination rates by August 26. These numbers have only increased in the past few days.

Age Group% Dose First% Dose Second% Dose Third
12-1544.430.20
16-1980.269.30.2
20-2980.172.81.2
30-3984.478.38.4
40-4987.481.724.1
50-5990.685.344.7
60-6991.587.763.7
70-7996.193.578.9
80-8994.79274.9
90+94.290.669.7

With such high inoculation rates, all would have predicted that the number of cases and transmission would have been far lower by now. But that’s not the case as the nation ranks fifth amongst major nations (precluding small republics and city-states under 1 million population).

As depicted by Our World in Data, the aggregation of Johns Hopkins University CSSE COVID-19 data clearly reveals the predicament faced in this Eastern Mediterranean nation. Despite extremely high vaccination rates combined with ever more numbers that have received the third booster dose, should these infection rates be so high?

All Eyes on the Israeli Vaccine-centric Model—is it Working?

Israel has been paving the way as a national leader not only in mass COVID-19 vaccination but also in data gathering. So, all eyes have been on this nation of 9.3 million, one with advanced health infrastructure and a population fully enrolled in HMOs, which indicates that the data here is more valuable than many other nations.

A recent piece in Science by Meredith Wadman hammers this point home. Titled “A grim warning from Israel: Vaccination blunts, but does not defeat Delta,” Ms. Wadman reported two weeks ago that the Israel experience was “sobering” and noted that “Nearly 60% of gravely ill patients are fully vaccinated.”

As TrialSite has introduced, a prominent American physician Eric Topol suggests a vaccine-centric strategy has already led to “grossly inadequate” results given the Delta data. Ms. Wadman’s piece conveys the importance of monitoring this country as Topol indicates, “It’s pure mRNA [messenger RNA] vaccines. It’s out there early. It’s got a very high-level population [uptake]. It’s a working experimental lab for us to learn from.”

As of Sept. 2, 13,900 cases were reported in one day, shattering records. Yet already, as can be seen in the table above, a rapid-fire booster program was already leading to extraordinarily high third booster jabs for key age groups. 

True, the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines have waned in half a year, hence the booster shots. In fact, now the Wall Street Journal reported that “fully vaccinated” means three doses of the mRNA vaccines in Israel.

Short-Term Protection—A Case is Made

A recent Israeli study suggests that this rapid-fire booster program leads to results. That is, they are dramatically improving the odds of infection. Put another way, those Israelis that received a booster (Pfizer-BioNTech) experience 11.4-fold fewer infections than those with two doses. Moreover, a third dose is associated with a 10-fold decrease in serious infection. 

The authors of the Israeli study acknowledge limitations, including the effects of confounders and behavioral changes post-vaccination. Authors are from Weizmann Institute of Science, University of Israel, Israel Ministry of Health and 2 Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, corresponding author Yair Goldberg’s employer. The authors declared, “there are some sources of bias that we may not correct adequately.”

After reading theTrialSite piece indicating high breakthrough infection and hospitalizations, Herzog Hospital’s leadership reached out to TrialSite to emphasize their point of view as to the importance of the vaccine program to reduce severe cases. This is understandable, and we provided an update emphasizing this perspective.

As mentioned above, the booster shot appears highly effective at protecting vulnerable populations in the short run, but what about the intermediate and long-run? How long will the protection last? What new variants will materialize? 

A Palestinian Question

And perplexing anomalies catch our attention.TrialSite still cannot find an explanation for why the Palestinian territories, just next door, have such low infection rates. With a pervasive Delta variant-driven surge in Israel, why is a group of overwhelmingly unvaccinated people barely touched? The only Palestinians that are allowed entry into Israel now are ones that are fully vaccinated. Presently, the new case rate in those territories is at its lowest since their first surge in June 2020.

The Pathway out of the Pandemic 

With hopes that somehow, someway SARS-CoV-2 goes the way of the first SARS-CoV, and dissipates, a distinctly disturbing possibility suggests the pathogen will remain circulating the globe, keeping populations at risk for some time to come. What are the implications? TrialSite has suggested the necessity of a multi-faceted approach, one factoring in early treatment and data-driven, risk-based public health measures enabling human societies to more seamlessly coexist with this pathogen.  

With time comes far more useful data for vaccination and the like. Life science and technology companies will continue to innovate and advance approaches from intranasal vaccines to a spectrum of early treatment options. But a future state driven by the plans of detached bureaucrats and politicians hungry for control paired with interlocking multinational corporate and financial interests isn’t set in stone. Especially in the West, the answer to transcending the pandemic becomes just as much a matter of political economy as it does science. That’s because politicians and bureaucrats have not only weaponized data but also inappropriately influenced mainstream media to bolster particular interests or approaches.    

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