Caught off guard, Israel is fearing a wave of the Delta variant

Caught off guard, Israel is fearing a wave of the Delta variant
Credit: EU

After Israel had vaccinated a majority of its population with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, infections in the country dropped to single digit figures, most coronavirus wards at the hospitals could close and the economy opened up again.

But in recent days, the daily number of infected people has increased and reached 353 new cases on Sunday as the Delta coronavirus variant is spreading in the country and colours some cities orange.

The increase in daily cases started last month when Israel changed government. Both the outgoing and incoming governments were careless and allowed people to travel to red countries and return without any corona tests at the airport or to go home directly without any contact tracing.

About 55 % of the Israeli population is fully vaccinated and a new campaign has started to vaccinate teenagers in the age group 12 – 15. The worrying news is that about half of the newly infected persons were vaccinated. The figures are still low and the positivity rate among tested people is only 0.7 % but epidemiological experts are discussing the effectiveness of the vaccine against the new variant.

The good news is that the vaccine is relatively effective against the Delta variant although not as much as was initially presumed. According to research carried out by British health authorities, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, two weeks after the second dose, is 88 % effective against the Delta variant. That is only slightly less than the 93 % against the alpha (British) variant.

The Delta variant however is considered to be one-and-a half times more contagious and twice as infectious. On the other hand, already vaccinated people will suffer minor symptoms if they will be infected by the new variant and in most cases will not have to be hospitalised.

On Monday, the Israeli health ministry announced that the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has dropped to 64 % which still is a high figure. While the Israeli experts are still discussing the figures, and new evaluations are planned, they seem to agree that there is no need for giving the general population a third dose of the vaccine.

According to a Belgian expert, in view of the increase in the number of daily infections in many European countries, a fourth wave is already happening. To contain that wave, controls at airports have to be tightened and more vaccinations will have to be carried out to achieve group immunity.

The Brussels Times

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