Israel may have reached herd immunity

Decline in coronavirus numbers as vaccinations are up shows that “Israel may have reached a kind of herd immunity.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The massive drop in Israel’s coronavirus infection rate as a result of almost 60% of Israel being vaccinated appears to have given the country herd immunity, Channel 12 reported Saturday.

The decline in morbidity data is continuing despite the widespread opening of the economy and holiday gatherings over Purim and Passover with a 97% drop in the number of daily infections, the report said.

“It is possible that Israel has reached a kind of herd immunity and regardless, we have wide security margins,” said Professor Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute, one of Israel’s leading research universities.

Segal heads a team of 34 researchers in a lab specializing in Computational Biology, using advanced mathematical modeling to analyze the clinical data from the pandemic.

“Graphs on the morbidity trend in recent months show the sharp declines lasting two and a half months,” Segal said, noting that the daily infections have dropped dramatically along with the decrease in the number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms.

“We need to remember that the economy is open and events like Purim and Passover that we feared passed peacefully,” Segal noted, with no subsequent spikes in infections despite large family gatherings and increased attendance at synagogues for the holidays.

Just over 5.3 million Israelis aged 16 and up have been vaccinated so for and at least 800,000 have recovered from having the virus, meaning two thirds of Israel’s 9.3 million people have antibodies to fight off the coronavirus.

With the numbers being what they are, Segal said the indication of herd immunity supports the additional easing of health restrictions due to “small risk and wide safety margins.”

Segal noted that even in the ultra-Orthodox sector there have been only two new critically ill patients in the past week, and fewer than 100 are verified per day. The positive overall test rate is also less than half a percent.

“I think it makes it possible to remove some of the restrictions immediately,” Segal said.

“It is also possible to remove the restriction of masks in outdoor areas, and also in closed areas when everyone is vaccinated and there are only dozens of people present,” Segal said.

“If we see that it causes a recurrence of infections, it is possible to return the restrictions again, but I think at the moment the risk is small and allows us to take the next step, and if it goes well, then go even to an almost complete return to routine,” Segal said.

Restrictions at large gatherings like sporting events and concerts are still in force. Weddings and prayer at churches, synagogues and mosques are limited and restricted to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from having the virus.

According to data released by the Ministry of Health on Sunday, there are currently 3,890 Israelis infected with the coronavirus with only 86 new cases detected on Saturday out of 11,173 people tested.

Of those sick, 418 are hospitalized, down from a peak of almost 2,000 earlier this year, with 263 Israelis currently listed in serious condition.