COVID19 mini-update, Jan. 12, 2020: sitrep from Israel

Israel is currently approaching 1.9 million first doses, or over 20% of the population. Yesterday, the eligible age bracket was extended downwards to 55, so I signed up and will get my first Pfizer jab tomorrow, G-d and logistics willing. Mrs., who is in a risk group, will get her 2nd jab. Stay tuned for updates — only one of the many people we spoke to in our circle had significant unpleasant side effects (that sounded like resulting from swollen lymph nodes). Most commonly, people have a bit of malaise on the 1st day and tenderness at the injection site for the 1st and 2nd days — or (especially among older people) seemingly no symptoms at all.

A report from the CDC indicated about one anaphylaxis case per 100,000 injections. We apparently are seeing much less than that here —- but our medical system, whatever the limitations and fiscal sustainability of socialized medicine, exercises much tighter control over patient data, and people with a history of allergic reactions to vaccine are screened out both by the computer (the four licenses HMOs —- every Israeli has to belong to one, although you can move between them once every six months if you so desire) and by the short intake interviews at the vaccination sites.

Most of the older and vulnerable population has gotten their 1st shots at this point. How much protection does the 1st shot on its own impart? Initial results, based on COVID19 hospital admissions, etc., indicate that the single dose on its own, without the waiting period required for the immune system to learn its new enemy, is about 33% protective —- we were told about 50% from the first dose, 95% from both doses plus a 2-week wait afterwards.

But in truth, our whole country has become a giant Phase IV test site. Indeed, an article in the Israeli business paper GLOBES claimed that exactly this has been the strategy used to pitch to the vaccine manufacturers for advance access. The fear was that, if we didn’t get in early, we’d end up sucking hind teat after the large developed countries. Other advantages touted were a small, densely populated country where logistics are comparatively simple, as well as the above mentioned highly integrated medical system.

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