COVID19 breaking news, January 28, 2021: first preliminary data on effectiveness of Israeli vaccination campaign [UPDATED]

Vaccination status per age bracket as of this AM. Light green=both doses, dark green=awaiting 2nd dose

As the vaccination campaign in Israel proceeds apace, and now a large chunk of the age 60+ population has had both doses, the public health authorities have released their first preliminary findings on the effectiveness of the vaccine among those who have had both shots and, after one week’s wait, were supposed to be 95% immune. Globes (Israel’s Hebrew-language business paper) has more details than the English-language press. Let me summarize in bullet points:

  • of 715,425 vaccinees, just 317 (or 0.04%) tested positive [after 1 or 2 weeks]. For comparison, our daily infection rate in the general population is about 0.1% per day
  • of those 317, sixteen (16, or 0.002% of vaccinees) needed hospitalization for COVID
  • currently, 322 people under 60 are hospitalized for COVID [note: we do not hospitalize mild and moderate cases for COVID alone, but send them to a “coronahotel” if they are unable to stay at home]. Of these, 83% are unvaccinated, 16% got one dose, and just 1% (to be precise, three patients) had had both doses.
  • of the 834 people age 60 and over hospitalized with COVID, 56% was unvaccinated, 42% got one dose, and just 13 people (rounds up to 2%) had had both doses. It is unclear whether some of these were already infected before they got the second shot: the first shot on its own is only expected to be about 50% effective. It is also not clear whether some of the others have immunodeficiencies.
  • At present, about 65% of people 60 and older have had both shots, but the relevant situation is probably that of a week or more ago with, say, 20-30% coverage. So it would seem that we are looking at about 90% effectiveness or better.
  • In the Pfizer clinical trial, nobody of the about 15,000 vaccinated got seriously ill — while the above statistics (on about 50x the number of people) do indicate that it is possible, albeit rare
  • There are indications the vaccination campaign is already affecting serious morbidity, with a significant drop in hospitalized patients expected to start next week
  • The British variant now accounts for 60% of new cases; fortunately it does not appear to be an ‘escape mutation’ (term I learned from my virologist colleagues) and the vaccine appears to be effective against it. The jury is out on whether this will be the case for the South African mutation.

Obviously, we will need a longer time interval for the data to firm up, but so far things are looking good for the Pfizer vaccine. (We also have a small supply of the Moderna mRNA vaccine, which is used for in-home vaccination of elderly people who cannot make the trip to the vaccination sites. The reason: Moderna has more lenient freezing/cooling requirements and is hence more suitable to be transported in a doctor or nurse’s car or bag.) In all, this is an unofficial Phase IV trial on a massive scale. Check back here for further developments.

If an escape mutation necessitates a ‘reprogramming’ of the vaccine and a new vaccination drive, does this require a whole new FDA approval process, clinical trials and all? An insider told me that seasonal flu vaccines probably have established a precedent for the contrary, as it is impossible to make a selection of strains and run a whole new set of clinical trials every year — by the time they are finished and you can mass-manufacture, flu season is likely over.

UPDATE: Times of Israel reports data from the Maccabi HMO [*] that also include a proper control population:

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is showing 92 percent effectiveness in Israel, according to the world’s first big controlled investigation on how it works outside of clinical tests. / Only 31 out of 163,000 Israelis vaccinated by Maccabi Healthcare Services caught coronavirus in their first 10 days of full-strength protection, its top vaccine statistics analyst, Anat Ekka Zohar, told The Times of Israel on Thursday. / In an equivalent sample of unvaccinated Israelis, some 6,437 were diagnosed in the same timeframe. […]

Maccabi has analyzed a control group of Israelis with similar age and health profiles [as the] vaccinees, composed entirely of people [who] haven’t been [previously] infected or received shots. This allowed Maccabi to calculate its real-world effectiveness rate. […] Ekka Zohar said she was encouraged by the light symptoms of vaccinated people who caught the coronavirus, as well as by the low infection rates. “None have been hospitalized and they have very very light symptoms,” she stated. “We are talking about headache and a mild feeling of sickness, and they are almost completely without fever. It’s really a very light illness.” […]The Health Ministry reported that there have been 317 infections among 715,425 vaccinees, a rate of 0.044%, or about double the infection rate seen among Maccabi members. However, Maccabi members tend to come from a higher socioeconomic background and live in areas with low infection levels. Ekka Zohar said that if there were a national control group, it would likely indicate a similar effectiveness level to Maccabi’s data.

And in tangentially related news, the origin theory of COVID19 as an accidental leak from a lab engaged in “gain of function” research just went from “only conspiracy theorists believe this” to… being endorsed by a WHO advisor and former Clinton and Biden staffer, Jamie Metzl, in an interview in the Toronto Sun. Wow.

[*] All Israelis by law have to belong to one of the four licensed HMOs [you can switch every six months if you so desire]: Clalit [the largest, historically an arm of the Histadrut trade union federation], Maccabi [historically the HMO of self-employed professionals and well-off people], Meuchedet [“United”, a merger of two smaller HMOs], and the small Leumit [“Nationalist”]. Full disclosure: our family is enrolled in Maccabi, though we carry supplemental private insurance.

9 thoughts on “COVID19 breaking news, January 28, 2021: first preliminary data on effectiveness of Israeli vaccination campaign [UPDATED]

  1. How about the theory that Covid was never very lethal, that the PRC just laundered as covid deaths from the use of gas to treat the public health hazard of Christian insurrection?

    And the Western media and officialdom went along with it for reasons of wanting to be like the PRC.

    • We have 4,500+ dead OF (not WITH —- our reporting rules are way stricter than in the USA) COVID here, in a country with 1/35th the population of the USA.

      But we are in a favorable climate zone. To make a fairer comparison, I went into Worldometers and looked up the populations and COVID fatalities of the states Florida, California, and Texas: adding them up in Excel [at 6am here], I get 102,000 reported dead out of a population of 90 million (about ten times ours), a factor of 2.3 higher than ours. I am quite willing to assume that lazy and/or overly inclusive reporting inflated the US fatality count by a factor of 2 or so, but not that it’s all made up out of whole cloth. I see the reality with my own eyes here, my colleagues even more so.

      My theory is and remains what it’s been since maybe April: irresponsibly risky “gain of function research” at the Wuhan lab (the US was in fact doing the same until NIH pulled the plug on it five years ago for that reason) in combination with lackadaisical bio safety procedures (which the US Embassy in Beijing, relaying concerns from a visiting scientists’ s delegation, reported upon to State in 2018) led to a worldwide epidemic and furious Chinese spin to deflect the blame from its execrable regime.

      That those always on the lookout for an emergency to justify their desire for more power and control just grabbed this latest one with both hands, well, that’s what they do. But I suspect they would have latched onto something else otherwise… People were starting to tune out the Global Warming shtick after all.

      Oh and BTW, last time I checked, this wasn’t a Christian country at all 😉

      • Theory is, ChiComs were apparently also trying to put down a dangerous Wuhan rebellion involving attending church service, and not buying the official edits to scripture.

        Here in the US, Covid Lockdown seems to have been implemented with a special hatred for both Christian and Jewish services and organizations. New York the City and New York the State leaders apparently have a particular grudge against Orthodox Jews. One of the explanations provided is that the Orthodox Jewish nursing homes in New York did not follow the state order to admit infected people, and thus avoided the otherwise significant death rate.

        I’m not sure how much of the mood here in the US is obvious. Might be purely my own personal baggage, but I am nervous, and am willing to believe the worst of officials.

        Other thing might not be obvious, US has a diverse mixture of flavors of Christianity practiced. Some of them feel very strongly that remote services, or restrictions on attendance, basically do not really count. Others have theology such that they feel that such accommodations are reasonable. Add in different policies from different governors and there is heated debate within the US about what is going on within the US wrt to discrimination against the practice of Christianity.

        And we can be pretty confident both that the PRC is pretty serious about eliminating a flavor of Muslim, and that a number of public figures are uncomfortably friendly with the PRC.

        I hope it is acceptable here to seek outside sanity checking of crazy stuff that starts to seem disturbingly plausible.

        I doubt US deaths are a complete fabrication, but from a policy perspective I work from two assumptions. For a naturally occurring disease, the non-juiced numbers might be the normal expected respiratory fatalities, and it probably would not make sense to change the usual measures, or implement new ones. The old measures were a better trade off against the myriad other factors than I am willing to trust current experts to make. If it is not a naturally occurring disease, then additional measures might be justified, but a de facto disease war is a de facto disease war, and is appropriate to treat it seriously. A gas is a germ is a nuke, even if the Chinese release was only staggering incompetence, it would be appropriate to mitigate future releases if they can not be trusted to do it themselves.

  2. A ew months ago, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown released a statement saying we need a one-world government, in effect, to battle the wuflu. Seems they’ve figured out global warming isn’t going to take them where they want to go.

    • I don’t know much about the UAE and whatever off-the-record sources I can tap into would probably ask me to remain silent, so I’ll stick to Israel.

      What I know about Israel is that (a) 50-60% of all new cases here are the UK mutation, which spreads more rapidly _and_ appears to have more severe consequences in younger patients than the original; (b) the number of severe hospitalized cases has plateaued for several weeks now and seems to be slowly trending down (you can see this here in the 4th graph on the left, which is about flat from the 17th ); (c) an inside source has told me that the mix of patients in the COVID wards is getting younger, as fewer old people come in (remember, we started vaccination with age 60 and over which account for 94% of our mortality, and once we got acceptable coverage, we gradually moved the minimum age down in steps of 5 years) and more people in their 40s, 30s, and even 20s are admitted (in that last bracket we only NOW got up to 20% first shots).

      The same source told me that the two minority groups most reluctant to get vaccinated (remember, vaccination is completely voluntary here) and least compliant with social distancing, the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs, account for the vast majority of patients.

      Anecdotally, a number of college classmates of my daughter have had it. The older cases (which got ‘classic XiFlu’ ;-;)) range from asymptomatic via cold-level symptoms to nasty flu-level symptoms. Recently one got what appears to be the British strain and she’s MUCH sicker than the others (oxygen tank level sick). We’re talking about somebody in her 20s in good general health.

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