Israeli data throws UK vaccine plans off course

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Israeli data throws UK vaccine plans off course

Fears over second dose delay after study of 200,000 people showed only 33 percent efficacy after the first dose, compared to the 89 percent claimed by the UK

A medical worker prepares a vaccine against the COVID-19 at a municipality vaccine center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 31, 2020. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua)
A medical worker prepares a vaccine against the COVID-19 at a municipality vaccine center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 31, 2020. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua)

Israeli vaccine data showing much less immunity against coronavirus after one dose could radically alter Britain’s policy of delaying the second shot so more people can have the first.

Israel’s speedy response to the virus has led to it becoming “ground zero for vaccination data”, allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate an expedited shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech drug by offering efficacy results in return.

Those results have now been published and the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance this week said he would look hard at the figures coming out of the Jewish state, where almost a quarter of the population have now had the jab.

He was facing questions from former Health Minister Philip Dunne, who said Israeli data from the Pfizer vaccine showed only 33 percent efficacy after the first dose, compared to the 89 percent claimed by the British Government.

“You don’t expect to get protection in the first ten days because it hasn’t had a chance for the immune system to build up,” Vallance told Sky News. “Some people may have been infected before they had the vaccine. If you take from Day 10, it looks more like the 89 percent, that’s the clinical trial data.”

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He added: “I don’t know exactly what Israel are looking at. If they are looking from Day 0 then that doesn’t give an exact comparison, but we need to look at it very carefully. We’ll get the information from Israel, from us, and see what’s happening.”

The UK says delaying the second dose by up to 12 weeks gives more people the protection afforded by the first jab but Ronni Gamzu from Tel Aviv’s Sourasky hospital said the UK’s 89 percent efficacy claim after one dose was “very optimistic” and did not match Israel’s “real-world findings”.

Likewise, Israel’s coronavirus tsar Nachman Ash told Army Radio that a single dose appeared “less effective than we had thought”, and lower than Pfizer suggested, as the country recorded another 10,000 positive infections on Monday.

Pfizer advises doctors to give the two doses three weeks apart.

It comes after preliminary data from the first 600,000 Israeli recipients suggested that the jab halves the chances of infection within 14 days of the first dose.

Of these, 4,500 tested positive within seven days, with 244 hospitalisations, most of whom are thought to have caught the virus before they had the jab. From eight days, 124 people were hospitalised. Only seven more were admitted after 14 days.

Elsewhere, Sheba Medical Center said data from its employees showed that almost all those who had two doses developed 6-12 times more antibodies than those who had recovered from Covid-19, which is in-line with scientific thinking.

Alongside its vaccination programme, Israeli officials say they may introduce Covid-19 ‘immunity passes’, allowing the bearer to avoid most restrictions. Such a plan mirrors an idea floated by Downing Street in April, with so-called ‘freedom certificates’ allowing people to lead near-normal lives.


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