The latest results from the trials of Israel’s homegrown COVID-19 vaccine indicate the shot may provide longer-term protection than the inoculation developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, which is the shot given to most Israelis.
Channel 12 news reported on Saturday that 230 volunteers who received the highest dosage of the vaccine, developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Ness Ziona, were notified that they did not need a third dose of the vaccine as their protection remained high, six months after getting a second dose.
The report did not detail how protection was measured, though presumably this was based on antibody counts.
Meanwhile, participants who received low or medium doses have been told to get vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna shots, as those dosages do not appear to offer significant protection.
Israel launched its “booster” vaccination campaign three weeks ago, urging Israelis over 60 (since lowered to over 40) to get their third dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which officials hope will help protect the population from the new highly contagious variant, and as the level of antibodies in those vaccinated have declined in the months after receiving the initial two doses.
The Israeli-made Brilife vaccine is still deep in the trial phase. In December, the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) successfully completed the first stage of testing and started the second phase, which has been ongoing.
Prof. Shmuel Shapira, the head of the IIBR and the driving force behind efforts to develop an Israeli COVID-19 vaccine, stepped down in May, in a surprise turn of events that cast doubt on the future of the local inoculation venture.
The local vaccine’s development has lagged significantly behind that of its international competitors
The approval of several international vaccines and Israel’s rapid inoculation campaign raised questions about the need for a domestically produced option that will be ready for distribution long after its competitors.
However, the emergence of new, more problematic variants and growing understanding that the vaccinations are likely to become a regular, necessary need for the forseeable future may well breathe new life into the project.
The Defense Ministry has said that it’s necessary to ensure Israel has independent access to inoculations. It has been described by other officials as a backup plan to supplement vaccines purchased from pharmaceutical firms based abroad.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry on Saturday reported that, of Israel’s population of 9.3 million, over 5.8 million have received at least one vaccine dose, nearly 5.4 million have gotten two, and 1,365,887 have been administered a third booster shot.