Experts in Israel have warned that the COVID-19 vaccine may be losing its efficacy in older people as the highly contagious Delta variant drives a new wave of infections in the Middle Eastern country.
The monitoring team at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem reported that about 90 percent of new confirmed cases in the over-50s group were people who had been fully vaccinated. Israel has been using the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in its fight against the pandemic.
“It seems there’s a reduced efficiency of the vaccine, at least for part of the population,” the team said.
The researchers added, however, that there is need for further analysis and research before any definite conclusion on the vaccine’s efficacy can be reached.
Professor Doron Gazit, a member of the team, told a radio interviewer: “The situation isn’t that bad, but it’s getting more difficult. The pandemic is spreading but the situation in the hospitals is not so severe.”
On Friday, 1,118 new cases were confirmed in Israel, up from 850 the previous day, but there were only 58 serious cases in hospital, 16 of whom needed respiratory assistance.
In a briefing on Sunday, Professor Nachman Ash, director-general of Israel’s health ministry, warned that a wave of infections linked to the Delta strain of COVID-19 were a cause for concern.
“This wave is expected to continue growing. Our aim is to continue life [as normal] despite that.”
The government is not planning a lockdown and is instead going ahead with plans to reopen schools after the summer holiday on September 1.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said last week that the country can beat the rise in new coronavirus cases without a nationwide shutdown, but that depends in part on people wearing masks indoors.
Bennett told reporters at a news conference that he has instructed police to step up enforcement of the mask rule with high fines for people who violate it.
“That’s the fair thing to do, because it’s wrong to have people who are lazy and hurt the rest of the public,” Bennett said. A national shutdown, he said, was “a last resort,” a reflection of the government’s effort to keep Israel’s economy strong.
“Stop shaking hands,” he advised Israelis, suggesting an elbow bump instead. “Stop kissing and hugging except within the family.” He also urged Israelis not to travel abroad as the delta variant spreads in Europe and elsewhere.
Israel is facing a wave of new infections despite having one of the world’s fastest inoculation campaigns. More than 5.7 million people of Israel’s population of 9.3 million have been vaccinated at least once. Some 5.2 million people have received two doses.
To date, more than 188 million people have been infected with COVID-19 and over four million have died from it, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
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