Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest HMO, issued a report Thursday on the British coronavirus variant, which it says was the likely cause of a 70 percent rise last month in serious COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated Israelis.
The study was conducted on 50,000 Israelis who were infected by the virus in January and February — when the country was under its third nationwide lockdown — as compared to 60,000 COVID-19 cases in October-December.
The British variant was first detected in Israel late last year and quickly became the dominant strain in the country.
“Our data offers a possible explanation for why the first few weeks of the year did not see, as expected, a sharp decline in serious patients per day, despite the increased vaccine drive and the great effectiveness of the vaccines,” said Prof. Ran Balicer, the head of the Clalit Research Institute.
He said the effects of the vaccines took longer than expected to be felt and were obfuscated by the 70 percent rise in serious cases among unvaccinated Israelis of all age groups during that same period.
Health officials in Israel have also blamed the British variant for the rise in serious cases and deaths among pregnant women.
As of Thursday, there were 755 Israelis in serious condition from the coronavirus, down from over 1,000 several weeks ago. Over 4.6 million Israelis have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 3.2 million have both shots.