Pfizer-BioNTech less effective against Delta variant, Israel data shows

Vaccine protected 64 per cent of people, down from 94 per cent against the original strain - but still kept vast majority out of hospital

Follow the latest updates on the Covid-19 pandemic here

Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine was less effective against the coronavirus in Israel in recent weeks, but it continues to shield people from severe Covid-19, according to government data.

The vaccine protected 64 per cent of people against the illness between June 6 and early July, down from a previous 94 per cent, Bloomberg reported.

The drop was observed as the Delta variant was spreading in Israel, the Health Ministry said. It also coincided with the lifting of virus restrictions at the start of June.

Despite the indications of increased infections, the data also showed the shot is protecting people from severe illness.

Its effectiveness at preventing hospital admissions fell to 93 per cent, according to the Health Ministry, compared with at least 97 per cent in an earlier government study.

The Delta variant first emerged in India and is spreading around the world as governments race to inoculate people. The mutation has forced some countries to delay or rethink plans to ease curbs on businesses, activity and travel.

Pfizer spokeswoman Dervila Keane declined to comment on the data from Israel. She pointed to research showing the vaccine’s continued protection against new mutations – just slightly reduced in some cases. The evidence so far suggests that the vaccine “will continue to protect against these variants”, she said.

Israel carried out one of the world’s most effective coronavirus inoculation drives, with about 57 per cent of the population now fully vaccinated.

Many new Covid-19 cases are detected among vaccinated people, according to Ynet news service. Last Friday, 55 per cent of the newly infected had been vaccinated, the website said. As of July 4, there were 35 serious cases of coronavirus out of a population of 9.3 million, compared with 21 on June 19.

The government plans to study vaccinated people who contracted the coronavirus, including factors such as age, pre-existing conditions and inoculation dates, to evaluate the efficacy of the vaccine and the rate at which it wears off, the prime minister’s office said.

The government is considering reinstating additional restrictions after restoring a mandate to wear masks indoors in public spaces. No decision has been made on recommending a third dose of vaccine, the Health Ministry said.

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla has said people will probably need a third dose within 12 months of getting fully protected.

UK to lift most restrictions and drop mandatory masks - in pictures

Updated: July 6th 2021, 10:03 AM