Vaccine effectiveness hits 95%, HMO says — same level Pfizer achieved in trials

It was previously unclear whether trial rates were attainable in real-world conditions; after fully vaccinating 602,000, Maccabi Health Services says only 608 infected, zero dead

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

An Israeli student receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, on January 23, 2021.  (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
An Israeli student receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at a vaccination center in Tel Aviv, on January 23, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Vaccine effectiveness in a large Israeli sample of inoculated individuals has hit 95 percent, the exact rate anticipated by Pfizer in its clinical trials, Maccabi Healthcare Services announced Wednesday.

It has now fully vaccinated 602,000, and only 608 have been infected, the equivalent of 1 in 1,000, it said. Of these, none have died.

Just 21 of those infected were hospitalized: 11 with mild symptoms, 3 with moderate symptoms and just 7 with severe symptoms. This leads Maccabi’s doctors to believe that the vaccine is not only reducing the number of confirmed patients, but also reducing the severity of illness in those who do fall ill.

When Pfizer achieved 95% efficacy in clinical trials, the medical community was impressed but unsure whether this could be replicated in the real world. Maccabi’s data indicates that it can.

“The effectiveness of the vaccine in Israel is stable and high,” said Maccabi statistics analyst Anat Ekka Zohar.

A medical worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Kiryat Ye’arim, on January 25, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

To measure effectiveness, scientists measure infection levels among people who have had at least a week pass since their second shot, and compare it to rates among unvaccinated people.

Maccabi Healthcare Services stats analyst Anat Ekka Zohar (courtesy of Anat Ekka Zohar)

Ekka Zohar believes that the slight rise in effectiveness since last week’s statistics, which put effectiveness at 93%, is the fact that many young people are newly vaccinated, and that they are responding very well to the vaccine.

Data that includes young people is seen as important, as it gives insight into how the vaccine performs among people with a relatively large amount of social contact. Younger people tend to have more daily interactions than the elderly, who were the priority of Israel’s vaccination campaign until recently.

“We clearly see very low morbidity rates among the group of young people who were vaccinated as early as seven days after the first dose of the vaccine,” Ekka Zohar said.

Speaking as Israel tries to boost vaccination rates after a slowdown in the campaign, she urged people to take note of the new stats and head to vaccination centers.

“We again call on the entire population over the age of 16 to hurry up and get vaccinated, adults and young people alike,” Ekka Zohar said. “The data proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the most effective way to defeat the pandemic.”

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