Israel has continually been at the center of the pandemic, and the world continues to monitor its fight against the disease. Having just withstood a surge of the new BA.2 variant, the Mideastern state appears to be in a “move on” or “just get used to it” mode. With a recent study revealing that a fourth booster dose only seems to stop infection and viral transmission for five weeks in the elderly (although it does appear to protect against more serious infection at least for some time), perhaps the notable ongoing mass vaccination effort targeting COVID-19 in Israel now comes to an end.
Living With the Virus
When COVID-19 in Israel was spiking in March, the population didn’t wait for rules to be reinstated but simply started to be more cautious. There have been over 4 million cases of COVID in Israel and over ten thousand COVID-related deaths. Over 18 million vaccinations have been administered, and if assuming most of the country has received two doses of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, that is enough to have vaccinated 100% of Israelis.
The numbers show COVID-19 cases are dropping. Even with the latest surge, there are several reasons why the disease has been kept at bay. One reason is that enough people caught the Omicron variant, which one Israeli described as like “having a mild hangover,” and were left with immunity, which meant the new BA.2 variant had a limited number of people to infect. Another reason is people changed their behavior, “masked up” again, and took care of the elderly.
Fourth Dose Considered
Forty-three percent of Israelis over 60 years old have received a fourth dose of the vaccine, with Pfizer’s BNT162b2 being the predominant shot. The Israeli pandemic team has also discussed expanding the four-dose regimen to adults 18 and over, even though a recent Israeli study concluded the durability of the fourth jab doesn’t last, at least, when it comes to preventing infection.
The Health Ministry anticipates another COVID-19 spike in April due to people gathering for both Passover and Ramadan. However, many secular Israelis may avoid gatherings because they tend to use the Passover holiday as a vacation out of the country.
A Shift in Thinking
Israeli health experts now anticipate the quick spread of the BA.2 variant will actually lead to a containment of the disease. An Israeli health expert said, “The whole discussion of waves can be counterproductive – because COVID is here to stay, and we don’t need to wait for waves to take precautions.” The Health Ministry said that last month, BA.2 accounted for about 60 to 70 percent of all new cases of covid. Even though the majority of Israelis have been vaccinated, the ministry seems to be taking “natural immunity” into account. Israelis appear to have adjusted to living with COVID-19.