Israel, one of the most vaccinated nations on the planet, is in full crisis mode as the delta variant-driven surge approaches the worst yet of the pandemic. According to Our in World Data, about 60% of the nation’s population is completely vaccinated (nearly all at-risk populations such as the elderly), while about 65% have received one jab. 78% of all Israelis over 12 are fully vaccinated. But as TrialSite has been reporting, the situation there just worsens, and a recent entry by Science suggests it could be “a grim warning.”

The Numbers

Israel has experienced now four COVID-19 pandemic surges, and we include the following in the Table:

COVID-19 SurgeSpike 7-day Avg. Daily CasesHighest Deaths Daily
March-April 2020615 new cases, April 3, 20209 deaths, April 21, 2020
June-Oct 20206,272 new cases,  Sept 27 202039 deaths, October 14, 2020
Nov 20-March 218,624 new cases, Jan 17 202165 death, January 25, 2021
July 21 to ongoing6,534, new cases, Aug 17, 202119 deaths, August 17, 2021

Note that this fourth delta variant-driven surge only started in July and appears on an incredibly steep growth curve that, if this continues, will surpass the very worst of the pandemic back in the period between November 2020 and March 2021. The death rates are overall lower more than likely due to a confluence of factors from vaccination to more treatment options in the hospital, among others. But this comparison requires a number of calculations.

What is the Situation?

As reported recently in Israeli media, the Health Ministry reports over 8,500 new cases, leading to a SARS-CoV-2 infection rate of 6.20%. 559 patients are in serious condition, a rise from 31 the other day, and 89 of them are connected to ventilators. 

Israel has administered a booster vaccine to over 1 million people now, reports multiple news sources

One recent study conducted at Sheba Medical Center indicated a relatively low breakthrough infection involving health care workers—at 2.6%. The authors reported some limitations. 

But TrialSite has followed very different real-world scenarios. We summarized a hospitalization report from the Jerusalem Post declaring that in one cluster of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 58% of the patients were vaccinated while 39% were unvaccinated.

A lead physician at Herzog Hospital went on television there and reported that “90% of severe COVID-19 hospitalizations are fully vaccinated,” at least in this one instance. Moreover, data from the Israeli government indicates that in one day—August 11—the most new SARS-CoV-2 infections were reported since March 2021, 405. Apparently, well over half of the patients at 250 were fully vaccinated.

Caution with Interpretation

Note that these figures don’t mean that the vaccine program has failed in Israel. The vaccines are not perfect at protecting all cases, and as TrialSite reported recently, some studies indicate the vaccines may wane in strength over time. When combined with the more transmissible and virulent delta variant, some assumptions associated with the mass vaccination program may need to be revisited. For example, a recent Mayo Clinic and nference study indicated that by last month (July), the Pfizer vaccine was only 42% effective, as compared to Moderna’s at 76%. One hypothesis is that those with 5+ months since the last jab and other risk factors may need a booster.

Clearly, the deaths are considerably down in Israel, indicating positive attributes of the vaccination program.

A ‘Grim Warning’

Recently in Science, Meredith Wadman wrote that with a major booster program now underway, the situation in Israel could be “…a warning to the world.” With one of the highest vaccination rates at 78%, the vast majority having received Pfizer’s BNT162b2, “Yet the country is now logging one of the world’s highest infection rates.” Ms. Wadman continues in Science, of the “650 new cases daily per million” over 50% are fully vaccinated, “underscoring the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant and stroking the concerns that the benefits of vaccination ebb over time.”

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