A single dose of the vaccine, meanwhile, is associated with 58% protection against infection, 76% against hospitalization and 77% against death, according to a study published in the journal. The Lancet suggests.
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First of its kind
The results are based on a nationwide evaluation of vaccine efficacy and are considered the first such observational evaluation.
Israel is currently the world leader in Covid-19 vaccinations, with more than half (56%) of the population having received two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.
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New cases of Covid-19 have dropped dramatically since the country’s vaccination program began, from a peak of more than 10,000 a day in January to a few hundred in March when the lockdown was lifted.
Israel’s economy has since almost completely reopened, with people going to sporting events and concerts as restrictions on outdoor crowds continue to loosen.
The researchers said their study underscored the importance of fully immunizing adults against Covid-19, but added that challenges remain to bring the pandemic under control.
These include uncertainty over the duration of immunity – both from vaccines and natural infection, and the emergence of variants that may be resistant to vaccines.
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Lead author Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israeli Ministry of Health, said: “As the country with the highest proportion of its population vaccinated against Covid-19, Israel offers a unique opportunity in the real world to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine; and to observe the broader effects of the vaccination program on public health.
“Until now, no country in the world has described the national impact on public health of a national vaccination campaign against Covid-19.
“This information is extremely important because, although there are still considerable challenges to overcome, it offers real hope that the Covid-19 vaccination will eventually allow us to control the pandemic.”
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National pandemic surveillance data
The researchers analyzed the data between January and April 2021, using national pandemic surveillance data recorded by the Israeli Ministry of Health.
During this period, the British variant accounted for a large majority of infections in the country.
As of April 2, 72% of people over 16 and 90% of those over 65 had received two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.
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The results showed that for all people over the age of 16, the vaccine offered 96.5% protection against infection, 98% against hospitalizations and 98.1% against death, 14 days after. the second dose.
The protections for older people were as strong as those for younger people, the researchers said, with those over 85 enjoying 94.1% protection against infection, 96.9% protection against hospitalization and 97% against death one week after receiving their second dose. .
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The analysis also showed that daily infections continued to decline as more people received the vaccine.
Dr Luis Jodar, senior vice president and chief medical officer, vaccines, at Pfizer, USA, said: “As immunization programs continue to scale up around the world, there is an urgent need for more data on the effectiveness of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine against serious diseases. and death, and the levels of protection it offers to the elderly.
“Research examining the effectiveness of vaccines over the long term will ultimately play a critical role in the fight against the pandemic.
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Commenting on the research, Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said new data from Israel confirms that the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine “offers very high protection against serious Covid-19 disease and death – even in the most vulnerable elderly. people ”.
He said: “It is important to note that the study shows that two doses of the vaccine significantly increase the levels of immunity and protection.
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“That’s why it’s important that people get both doses and, if UK immunization policy changes, get a third if offered in the fall.”
Professor Ball said that as new variants of the coronavirus emerge, “boosting your immunity with the vaccine booster will be even more important” as the virus acquires genetic changes that can make it more resistant to the immunity generated. from vaccines or as a result of natural infection.
He added, “Therefore, it will be important to continue to monitor the potential impact of the viral change and the effectiveness of the vaccines.”
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