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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

Israeli scientist says Covid-19 vaccine campaign is working: 'the magic has started'

Experts at the Weizmann Institute and Tel Aviv University say early data is promising

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in a gymnasium in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva, on February 1, 2021.AFP
A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in a gymnasium in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva, on February 1, 2021.AFP

A scientist and health expert at Israel's Weizmann Institute is optimistic about the country's strategy of mass inoculation after analysing the latest Covid-19 case data.

"We say with caution, the magic has started," Eran Segal said on Twitter on Tuesday, looking at data compiled by his institute and analysts from the University of Tel Aviv.

If the positive indications hold up in the coming days and weeks, it could be hugely significant for the many countries now pursuing mass vaccination as a key pillar of their anti-Covid-19 strategy.

There were fears that new, rapidly spreading strains could complicate vaccination efforts.

Israel worked quickly to vaccinate its population and has already inoculated nearly 30 per cent of its citizens, but remains in the midst of its worst wave of the virus yet.

The Israeli Health Ministry recorded 2,596 new infections and 23 fatalities on Sunday, with about 1,162 of those being critically ill patients.

Despite that, the data compiled by the Weizmann Institute shows an optimistic picture for the future.

According to Mr Segal's data, in groups with high numbers of vaccinations, such as those over 60, there has been a 35 per cent drop in confirmed cases, a 30 per cent decrease in hospital admissions, and 20 per cent drop in critically ill cases.

Mr Segal pointed out that the patterns were not observed in the previous lockdown.

In fact, he said, this was a bigger drop than had been seen during previous lockdowns and is a bigger drop than that seen among young people – most of whom are unvaccinated.

Analysing the data further, Mr Segal had more tentative good news – in cities that vaccinated earlier there was an even bigger drop in numbers.

Although Israel may be one of the first nations to show vaccine effectiveness, it is still facing significant pushback from those who are hesitant about receiving the vaccine, possibly hampering its ability to reach the vaccination goal of 5.5 million people – the entire population.

The current programme also does not extend to the approximately 5.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In those areas, local authorities are largely co-ordinating their own programmes. To aid the efforts, Israel has agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians to immunise frontline medical workers.

Updated: February 10, 2021 07:43 PM

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