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Israel’s fast vaccination rollout makes it a real-world test case for analysing a pathway to normal. Since the first injection on 20 December 2020, over 40% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, with the proportion rising to 90% for those aged over 60 (75% of the over-60s had received their first doses by 7 January 2021). 25% of the total population is now fully vaccinated, including 80% of the over-60s.
As a result, by monitoring the epidemiological situation in Israel we can empirically verify the vaccine’s efficacy and attempt to identify patterns that may be replicated in the rest of the world.
The first thing to note is that the peaks in both new COVID-19 cases and related fatalities seem to have been passed, although it is difficult to establish a causal link between vaccinations and the better statistics because a third lockdown was imposed on 8 January 2021.
To differentiate the impact of the lockdown restrictions from that of the vaccines, researchers* first looked at changes in hospitalisation numbers for the over-60s compared to the rest of the population, with the over-60s having been prioritised for vaccination. They then studied how these data varied for different cities, some of which had received the vaccines more quickly than others. The researchers compared their results with data from the previous lockdown.
At a national level, results show that new hospitalisations for the over-60s fell by approximately 40% from mid-January onwards, while they increased by about 15% for the rest of the population. An even greater gap was observed between cities where vaccination took place relatively early and those where it took place relatively late. Divergences of this nature were not observed during the previous lockdown.
Overall, the first results coming out of Israel offer hope for the rest of the world and the economy.
*Hagai Rossman, Smadar Shilo, Tomer Meir, Malka Gorfine, Uri Shalit, Eran Segal (2021). Patterns of COVID-19 pandemic dynamics following deployment of a broad national immunization program. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.08.21251325v1
The opinion expressed above is dated 11th February 2021 and is liable to change.
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