The study conducted by Israel’s largest health service HMO Clalit, with funding from Harvard Medical School, was published in the Lancet medical journal based on a study of 728,321 people who received the third injection compared to a control group of a similar number who received only two shots at least five months before.
The third dose of 93% was effective in preventing admission to hospital, the report said, with health departments recording 231 cases of hospitalizations for the two-dose group, compared to 29 for those who received a booster.
Similarly, the rate was 92% for severe disease with 157 cases in the control group against 17 among those in the third category of vaccines.
The study also found that the booster was 81% effective in preventing COVID-related deaths, with only seven recorded among those who received the booster compared to 44 deaths for those who did not.
The study period was July 30, 2020 to September 23, 202, and participants had a median age of 51. Israel almost exclusively used Pfizer’s fire.
Both groups reported significantly lower numbers of hospitalizations and deaths than those who were not vaccinated at all.
“The results demonstrate very convincingly that the third dose of the vaccine is extremely effective,” said Ran Balicer, Chief Innovation Officer of Clalit.
Israel was the first country to widely adopt the booster, and the end of Israel’s fourth wave was attributed at least in part to its booster vaccination campaign, which began among those over 65 in August and was quickly spread to the rest of the population. On Friday, nearly 4 million Israelis – more than 42% of the total population – received a third dose of the COVID vaccine. Almost 67% of the total population received at least one injection.
Israelis over 60 receive their third booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit HMO clinic in Jerusalem on August 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi / Flash90)
About 650,000 people eligible for vaccines have not received any vaccines, while about 1.1 million Israelis eligible for the booster have yet to receive it.
Since then, the United States and other countries have followed suit, although some have approved the recall only for the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions.
The booster injections have been widely credited with helping Israel weather a fourth wave of the virus.
The number of active COVID-19 cases in Israel fell below 10,000 for the first time in more than three months, according to figures released Thursday and Friday by the health ministry.
As Delta’s epidemic continues to decline, the number of active cases stands at 9,030 on Friday evening, after having surpassed 90,000 in early September. Data also showed 656 new cases were confirmed as of Thursday, up from 5,000 to 6,000 a day almost two months ago. As of Thursday, the number of active cases stood at 9,551.
As of Friday evening, severe cases had dropped to 222, including 127 on ventilators and 148 in critical condition. The death toll has increased by 10 since Thursday morning to a total of 8,085.
Israel’s COVID-19 positivity rate has also declined steadily in recent weeks, hitting an all-time low in recent days since early July, according to health ministry statistics.
As of Thursday, only 651 people tested positive for the coronavirus, out of nearly 77,000 tests, marking a positivity rate of 0.92%, up slightly from 0.81% on Wednesday. At the height of Israel’s fourth wave in early September, the positivity rate exceeded 8%.
But ahead of the expected approval of vaccinations for 5 to 11 year olds, health officials have warned against dropping vaccines that could prevent future waves.
On Wednesday, the government voted to lift restrictions on outdoor gatherings, which so far have been capped at 5,000 people.
From Friday, outdoor gatherings requiring a Green Pass can have an unlimited number of participants.
Overall, all indicators point to the end of the fourth wave of COVID in Israel, which began in July and at its peak, more than 10,000 new cases have been reported every day.
Under Israel’s traffic light program – which ranks localities as red, orange, yellow, or green based on their number of new cases, positivity rate, and case growth rate – only one city is currently listed as red: Beit El settlement outside Jerusalem. Eleven cities are listed in orange and the rest of the country is either yellow or green.
A key Department of Health advisory group is set to meet next week to begin the vaccine approval process for children aged 5 to 11, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it earlier this week. Health ministry director general Nachman Ash said he expects some hesitation from parents, but the ministry aims to make the approval process as transparent and clear as possible in order to ‘alleviate any concerns.
Israel is still awaiting delivery of Pfizer COVID doses for children, which are one-third of the adult dose. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has reportedly ordered health officials to hurry alongside the shipment, which is expected to arrive in mid-November.
Starting Monday, Israel will open – somewhat – its borders allowing vaccinated tourists who have received a second or third dose, or have recovered in the past six months. Despite the restrictions, experts say reopening Ben-Gurion will pose a risk of new variants and a spike in cases.
According to Channel 12 News, tourists caught violating quarantine will be expelled and banned from returning for three years. And those who violated quarantine while testing COVID positive will be kicked out and banned for five years.