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'If 30-plus all vaccinated, we'd likely live a normal life'

Israel data: Boosters cut elderly’s risk of COVID death to 50th of unvaxxed rate

‘Dramatic figures’ show over-60s who shun vaccines are not only at much greater risk of death than triple-vaxxed, but also have 65 times the chance of getting seriously ill

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, on October 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, on October 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After boosters, elderly Israelis who are fully inoculated have just one fiftieth of the chance of COVID death compared to unvaccinated people in the same age bracket.

According to Health Ministry data for the last seven days of September, there were 6.43 daily deaths per 100,000 Israelis aged 60-plus. For older people who were vaccinated three times, the average was 0.13.

The statistics indicate that the shift from a two-shot to a three-shot regime has saved many lives. When elderly Israelis who are vaccinated twice get their third shot, they eliminate eleven-twelfths of the risk of death.

The daily deaths over the last seven days of September for the double vaccinated elderly was 1.5, compared to the 0.13 figure for the triple vaccinated.

“These are dramatic figures,” Prof. Ehud Grossman of Tel Aviv University’s medicine faculty told The Times of Israel. “They show clearly that the decrease in the current wave is due to vaccination, and point to the effectiveness of inoculation.”

Noting that there is also a big margin in serious cases between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, he said that the figures highlight the extent to which the continued refusal of around 900,000 eligible Israelis is accentuating the impact of the virus.

“You can deduce that if we were all vaccinated there would be very low severe cases and deaths,” he said.

A health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at a Maccabi Health Services clinic in Jerusalem, on August 20, 2021, soon after Israel approved booster shots for people over 40, a decision that was later expanded to the entire population. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The statistics show that older people who don’t vaccinate increase their chances of getting seriously ill with COVID-19 by 65 times.

Among triple-vaccinated Israelis aged 60-plus, there are 2.6 people per 100,000 in serious condition. Among the unvaccinated the figure is 168.5. Boosters are shown to be working well in keeping people out of serious condition.

There are 28.5 serious cases per 100,000 people among 60-plus Israelis who got just two shots, compared to 2.6 for the triple-vaccinated.

A graph showing the rate of Israelis per 100,000 citizens aged 60-plus who are seriously ill with COVID-19. The vertical axis is the number of people per 100,000, and the horizontal axis shows the date. The top line on the graph, in light blue, denotes unvaccinated people, the next line (light green) denotes people who received two shots, and the bottom line (dark green) denotes the triple-vaccinated.

The number of coronavirus patients being treated on ventilators rose above 200 for the first time since late March in late September, and is now at 205. In total, there are 588 patients in serious condition.

The Health Ministry statistics point to increased risk of serious illness among younger people who don’t vaccinate, as well as the elderly.

Among under-60s, 6.4 people per 100,000 are currently in serious condition with the coronavirus, compared to just 0.2 among those who were vaccinated three times and 1.4 among those who were vaccinated twice.

Prof. Eyal Leshem, infectious diseases specialist at Sheba Medical Center, told The Times of Israel that there is one limitation to the figures, namely that they assume that vaccinated and unvaccinated people have the same level of exposure to coronavirus and have a similar level of health, which may or may not be the case.

But he said that the margins are so high that the picture painted by the figures is clear.

“What we see is that among the triple-vaccinated, rates of severe disease and death are very low, and it is this that’s allowing the country to function without being in lockdown,” said Leshem.

“That’s what’s allowing us to weather the current storm of illness. And these numbers tell people who are still unvaccinated that when there are thousands of cases each day they are still at high risk of severe disease and deaths.”

With around 900,000 Israelis still unvaccinated, Leshem said that the figures suggest just how different life may be if most of them accepted shots.

“If the 30-plus were all vaccinated, we would probably be able to live a very normal life,” he suggested. “And while there would still be some transmission there would be very few restrictions.”

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