Early this summer, Israel experienced days where there were no new coronavirus cases reported, a sign of the country’s hugely successful vaccination campaign.
Now, there are an average of 8,000 cases a day.
“Unfortunately, we are dealing with a new wave. This time it’s with a new version of COVID, the delta, which the vaccine is not as capable in stopping and at the same time, time has passed since the citizens of Israel took their last dose of the vaccine,” Lior Haiat, spokesman of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Herald.
Israelis had shed their masks, returned to work and most COVID hospital beds had shut down, as previously reported in the Herald. Officials had said similarly sized Massachusetts could also achieve the same level of success.
But many restrictions are now back in place for the citizens of Israel. “The wave started with young people that were not vaccinated,” Haiat said.
Dr. Asher Salmon, head of international affairs for Israel’s Ministry of Health said the delta variant took over “massively” during the summer and vaccine immunity began to fade despite the majority of Israelis having gotten the shot.
Both Haiat and Salmon said the current coronavirus wave does not appear to have resulted in as many severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths, thanks to vaccination.
In response to the surge, booster doses have been deployed, a step the United States is soon to take. In Israel, the boosters started first with older residents and worked down to the younger population.
The country’s digital “green passport” that verifies vaccination status to eat indoors in restaurants and attend large events has been altered to reflect boosters.
Haiat said to attend an event now, the green pass must show that a person received a booster dose, or got their second dose within the last six months.
For children under twelve that are still not eligible for vaccination, free rapid tests are available and must be shown to do activities like going to the mall or public pools.
The booster doses are starting to show signs of improvement in the coronavirus trends, said Salmon, but it’s still a bit early to know the full impacts.
“It is very safe and it also seems to be very effective by reducing the risk of being infected dramatically,” said Salmon of the third shots.
United States health officials are keeping tabs on booster dose data from Israel.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, then nation’s top infectious disease specialist, noted data during a recent press conference that showed 12 days after a booster shot was given, there was a tenfold decrease in the risk of infection.
The news is encouraging, and could serve as a lesson to other nations. Salmon said six months after receiving the original vaccine series is a good time to start thinking about boosters.
More than 1.1 million Israelis have been infected with coronavirus and more than 7,000 died, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. Israel has a population of about nine million.
Massachusetts, by comparison, has a population of seven million and has lost nearly 18,000 residents to the virus, which has infected more than 714,000.
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