A top Health Ministry official on Friday said that a surge in serious morbidity appeared to be coming under control, while predicting COVID-19 vaccine booster shots would soon be made available to all Israelis.
“There is cautious optimism, and we see a curbing of serious morbidity,” Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the ministry’s head of public health services, told Channel 12 news.
Alroy-Preis, 47, said that she received a third vaccine dose after they were made available to anyone over 40 on Friday. Israel approved booster shots for those older than 60 late last month, and has since gradually lowered the eligibility age. It is also giving booster shots to the immunocompromised.
While calling to further expand the booster shot drive, Alroy-Preis said that this process should be done in stages, with Israel exercising caution, as it is the first country to administer the additional vaccine dose.
“I predict this will happen in the coming weeks,” she said. “First people at risk need to be prioritized and then open up to additional groups. This is what we did when we started the vaccine campaign.”
Alroy-Preis also said that the prospect of another lockdown is becoming more distant, saying that vaccines, Green Pass rules and restrictions on gatherings and businesses can curb the spread of the virus.
“We’ll succeed in getting through this wave and definitely aren’t jumping to a lockdown,” she said.
Echoing Alroy-Preis, an expert who advises the Health Ministry on COVID said that there are grounds for optimism as vaccination rates rise.
“The figures in recent days were good,” Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, told the network. “Of course it’s early and we need to wait, but a better trend is definitely beginning [as compared to] recent weeks.”
He said that the rate at which serious cases were rising has slowed.
“The booster seems to be again raising the effectiveness of protection against infection threefold, in comparison to people who were vaccinated with two doses. It raises protection against serious morbidity by five or sixfold,” he said.
Segal added: “The combination of these figures, together with the number of Israelis who were already vaccinated a third time, is what is leading us to containment.”
Israel: 5th day in a row that the number of severely ill hospitalized patients broke its steady doubling every 10 days
We are 3 weeks into the third booster shot campaign
Orange: Doubling every 10 days
Blue: Actual number of severely ill pic.twitter.com/pcHmB6X9T5
— Eran Segal (@segal_eran) August 20, 2021
Israel has seen case numbers skyrocket in recent weeks due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, with over 7,000 news cases reported daily in recent days, and some 600 people hospitalized in serious condition with the disease. A total of 6,759 people have died from the virus since the start of the outbreak last year.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government has resisted calls for tighter restrictions or a lockdown to bring down infection rates, insisting that the socioeconomic damage wrought would be too great. The administration has touted vaccines as a better way to thwart the spread of the virus.