Vaccine efficacy dropping, booster shots and more restrictions possible

While serious cases remain extremely low, the government is considering reinstating such limitations as the “Green Pass” system to curb the rise in infections.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s Corona cabinet will meet Tuesday to discuss ways to battle the recent surge in infections from Covid-19 as data reveals that the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine has dropped precipitously in the past month.

In comparison to the period between May 2 and June 5, when protection was measured at 94.3%, the Health Ministry has found that after June 6 the number dropped considerably and now stands at 64%. This coincides with the appearance of the Delta variant in the country.

Just over half of the 2,600 people currently infected (55%) caught the disease after having been fully vaccinated.

On the positive side, the number of serious cases has remained extremely low, with some 35 people in serious condition, 16 of them on respirators. Forty-six percent of the cases are students, none of whom have been reported as needing hospitalization.

Still, the contrast to early June is stark, when there were fewer than 200 active cases in Israel, and the rising rate of infection as well as the jump in absolute numbers is giving the government cause for worry. With 343 of those tested Sunday coming out positive, it marked the second time in a week that the number was over 300. It also represented an infection rate of 1.03%, in comparison to the rate over the weekend, which was about 0.6%.

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At the beginning of Sunday’s regular cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned that the government would reinstate health restrictions if morbidity levels keep rising.

“As part of what we have learned from the past, we will not wait to protect the health of Israeli citizens,” he said.

Among the moves being mulled are going back to the “Green Pass” system, which was just eased a few weeks ago. Entry to mass events or high-traffic venues such as hotels would again be restricted to those with proof of having had either the inoculations or the disease, or those underage who had a “clean” PCR test within the previous 72 hours.

Crowd limitations in general are being considered, as are mandatory tests for people entering places with a high concentration of high-risk populations, such as nursing homes.

Wearing masks indoors is already a reinstated rule but one not generally observed among the population. The cabinet will reportedly consider allocating thousands of police to strictly enforce the policy.

Booster shots for populations most at risk are also on the table. The Health Ministry’s advisory committee for epidemic control and coronavirus vaccines met late Sunday night to review the research being conducted in Israel and other countries on the efficacy of a third shot.

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