Israel has recorded nearly 2,000 cases per million people, or nearly 0.2% of the entire population, in a single day despite being the leading country to inoculate its population. The figure only looked at one day’s worth of tests and the rate is thought to have been driven up by a testing push ahead of school reopenings.
However, the country has consistently reported some of the highest infection rates in the world since mid-August, during an unprecedented third wave, despite being one of the most vaccinated nations (currently, 63 percent of the population is fully vaccinated).
In comparison, 522 people per million were tested positive in the U.K., while it was around 595 per million in the U.S. Experts say that these numbers suggest that protection gained from vaccines is starting to wane in the face of the highly transmissible delta variant. Israel is seeing record case numbers in its fourth wave. Fatalities have also risen sharply in the last month.
The country has been offering booster vaccines to seniors since July, and data suggested this helped curb rising hospital admissions.
Israeli lawmakers are looking to avoid the reintroduction of draconian measures and lockdowns. They are encouraging people for any dose of the vaccine to get their shots.
“I don’t want to impose a lockdown and I will avoid a lockdown at all costs. Everything is open — but we need masks and we need vaccines,” said Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.
Questions arise regarding benefits of booster vaccinations
In the U.K., the government is yet to sign off on plans about launching a mass booster jab program.
Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) member Neil Fergison said he expected a surge in cases in the winter; however, he isn’t sure if the surge will be big enough to warrant rolling back restrictions. Meanwhile, other experts fear that COVID-19 will explode as children are getting ready to go back to school for face-to-face sessions.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) said that it was waiting for more evidence on whether or not a booster shot will benefit the majority of Britons who still had high protection against COVID-19. (Related: VACCINE FAIL: 64% of Israel’s COVID-19 patients in serious condition are fully vaccinated.)
While the committee finally signed off on plans for a third vaccine dose, they will be given only to half a million people with suppressed immune systems.
The group believes that the U.K. is in a unique situation because it went for a much longer two-dose strategy compared to Israel and the U.S.
In the U.K., shots were spaced out by up to 12 weeks instead of the recommended three-week gap, leading officials to believe that it generated better immunity for the population.
In the U.S., figures show that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now only cut the risk of hospitalization by around 75 percent against the delta variant in elderly people, compared to the 95 percent efficacy when the vaccines were first deployed.
Protection after getting two shots of Pfizer vaccine decreased from 88 percent to 74 percent at six months, while it dropped from 77 percent to 67 percent for AstraZeneca.
A significant surge in cases is expected to be seen in the U.K., however, it is too early to say whether or not it may mean tightening restrictions once again.
Speaking to reporters on a webinar, Ferguson said that there are concerns about the effect of schools reopening that could spread the virus. “We expect to see quite a significant surge in cases, to some extent in hospitalizations, but whether that’s going to require any rolling back of the relaxation of restrictions is too early to say. It really depends on the level of healthcare demand,” he said.
He also noted that if an unvaccinated population of 5 to 10 percent all got COVID in a short period, it could result in a large healthcare burden and could risk overwhelming health care systems, even in high-income countries.