ISRAEL is showing proof the Covid vaccines work, as cases and deaths fall dramatically in the weeks following mass jabbing.
Among older and at-risk adults, cases have fallen by 53 per cent and hospitalisations by 39 per cent three weeks after second doses started being rolled out.
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There has also been a reduction of severe illness in this group by 31 per cent, according to Prof Eran Segal, data scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.
More than half of eligible Israelis – about 3.5 million people – have now been fully or partially vaccinated with the Covid vaccines, including 80 per cent of the elderly.
The country has become a real-life study of how the vaccines are working after they were tested for safety and efficacy in thousands of people in clinical trials.
Israeli experts are confident the vaccines – rather than lockdown measures imposed on December 27 – have had a positive impact on the Covid outbreak.
The data were “convincing in telling us this is the effect of the vaccination,” said Prof Segal.
Israel began its vaccination programme December 19 with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
The new UK variant began spreading there days later and now makes up 80 per cent of cases, suggesting the jab also works against the strain.
The first set of data is extremely promising for the UK, which is following Israel closely in terms of vaccinating as many people in the top priority groups.
Early data from the UK, revealed by The Sun, shows just one Covid jab offers two-thirds protection against the virus.
One in four adults have now received their vaccine and will have maximum protection against Covid by the end of February.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last night figures showing a reduction in Covid-19 cases were not necessarily “attributable” to the vaccine.
He has pledged to review the data in the week of February 22 in order to work out a "road map” for the easing of lockdown restrictions in England.
What does the data show?
Reuters interviewed leading scientists, health officials and healthcare providers in Israe about what new data shows from the world’s most efficient vaccine rollout.
Second doses started being given in Israel from January 16, as the country races to vaccinate people against the spread of the new UK variant.
Three weeks later, on February 6, the data shows that in adults over 60 and the most vulnerable, the vaccine reduced cases (53 per cent), hospitalisation (39 per cent) and severe illness (31 per cent).
In the same period, among people under age 60 who became eligible for shots later, new cases dropped 20 per cent.
But hospitalisations and severe illness rose 15 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively.
More will be understood about the figures as Israeli scientists analyse vaccinations in younger groups.
“We need to have enough variety of people in that subgroup and enough follow-up time so you can make the right conclusions, and we are getting to that point,” said Ran Balicer, chief innovation officer of HMO Clalit, which covers more than half the Israeli population.
He added: "We do expect further decline in the overall cases and in the cases of severe morbidity."
Figures from Israel's Maccabi Healthcare Services show that less than 0.6 per cent of 416,900 people vaccianted with two doses tested positive for Covid-19.
This compared with 1.7 per cent of the 778,000 people who had not received the jab.
Those in the vaccination group caught it in the first 21 days after receiving their second dose, when the immune system is still working up protection against the virus.
After 22 days, no one in the vaccination group reported an infection.
Prof Hezi Levi, director-general of the Israeli Health Ministry, said the vaccine has proven to be effective against the new UK variant, which spreads quicker and is potentially more deadly.
Prof Levi said: “We’ve so far identified the same 90 to 95 per cent efficacy against the British strain.
“It is still early though, because we have only now finished the first week after the second dose.
“It’s too early to say anything about the South African variant.”
There are also signs the vaccines prevent people from spreading the virus – which is crucial for ending lockdowns.
Onward transmission of the virus was unable to be studied in clinical trials – only severe disease and death was proven to be prevented, not catching the coronavirus.
Israel’s biggest Covid-19 testing centre, run by MyHeritage, has been measuring the amount of virus people have been infected with, known as the cT value, among the elderly.
They have seen a decrease in cT value, which suggests even if those inoculated are infected, they carry less of the virus and may be less likely to pass it on to others.
Stefan Baral, from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Maryland, said: “The data so far is probably most clear from Israel. I do believe that these vaccines will reduce onward transmission."
What is UK data showing?
More than 13 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of the vaccine, and more than half a million have gotten their second dose.
Only those who are over the age of 70, are clinically extremely vulnerable, or are healthcare workers have had their jab so far.
Early data shows just one Covid jab offers two-thirds protection against the virus.
The official findings — due out in days — will show the Pfizer vaccine starts to work in as little as two weeks.
And it appears to be equally effective in older Brits as younger adults.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab offers similar protection.
The dose reduced the symptomatic infection risk by 65 per cent in younger adults, and 64 per cent in over-80s.
Experts found Brits given two shots of the jab saw protection rise to between 79 and 84 per cent, depending on age.
The research suggests all of the Brits vaccinated so far will have high levels of protection by the end of February.
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the data was “quite amazing”.
He told The Sun: “If these numbers are borne out, then they are very reassuring.
“If they are achieving 65 per cent protection after three weeks with both jabs, then I think that’s really good.
“And that’s a vindication of our current strategy as it protects more people than giving two doses three weeks apart.
“I am still, despite the South African strain, quite confident that we will see a gradual opening of the society, probably starting with schools opening early March.”
The analysis will help Boris Johnson decide when to starting lifting the national lockdown and re-open schools.
A Government source said: “These are hugely positive findings, and show vaccination is having a real impact on the pandemic.
“The data backs up our approach to delay the second vaccine and save more lives.”
The Prime Minister has named February 22 as the date the Government will give a clearer indication of when lockdown will be lifted, after studying vaccine efficacy closely.
Asked about Public Health England’s data showing vaccine efficacy in the UK, Mr Johnson said from No10 on Wednesday evening: “I’ve looked at the data and scrutinised it with my layman’s eye and so far, yes we are getting the numbers down, but can I see results that I think are directly attributable to the vaccine? Although I’m assured that will happen soon, I can’t say that I can see them yet.”
On lifting lockdown measures, Sir Patrick Vallance said it would be done with “caution” and based on the data.
He said there were still a “significant number of people in high-risk groups” who had not been vaccinated.
Sir Patrick said: “Those people remain at risk and so it’s important we go cautiously in opening up, in order to be able to measure the effects.”
He added: “The virus isn’t going to be particularly interested in dates.”
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