Patterns of COVID-19 pandemic dynamics following deployment of a broad national immunization program

Link: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.08.21251325v2.full-text

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Abstract:

Studies on the real-life impact of the BNT162b2 vaccine, recently authorized for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), are urgently needed. Here, we analysed the temporal dynamics of the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalization in Israel following a rapid vaccination campaign initiated on December 20th, 2020. We conducted a retrospective descriptive analysis of data originating from the Israeli Ministry of Health (MOH) from March 2020 to February 2021. In order to distill the possible effect of the vaccinations from other factors, including a third lockdown imposed in Israel on January 2021, we compared the time-dependent changes in number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations between (1) individuals aged 60 years and older, eligible to receive the vaccine earlier, and younger age groups; (2) the latest lockdown (which was imposed in parallel to the vaccine rollout) versus the previous lockdown, imposed on September 2020; (3) early-vaccinated cities compared to late-vaccinated cities; and (4) early-vaccinated geographical statistical areas (GSAs) compared to late-vaccinated GSAs. In mid-January, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization started to decline, with a larger and earlier decrease among older individuals, followed by younger age groups, by the order in which they were prioritized for vaccination. This fast and early decline in older individuals was more evident in early-vaccinated compared to late-vaccinated cities. Such a pattern was not observed in the previous lockdown. Our analysis demonstrates evidence for the real-life impact of a national vaccination campaign in Israel on the pandemic dynamics. We believe that our findings have major public health implications in the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, including the public ’s perception of the need for and benefit of nationwide vaccination campaigns. More studies aimed at assessing the effectiveness and impact of vaccination both on the individual and on the population level, with longer followup, are needed.

Author(s): Hagai Rossman, Smadar Shilo, Tomer Meir, Malka Gorfine, Uri Shalit, Eran Segal

Publication Date: 8 March 2021

Publication Site: MedRXiV

Israel’s “green pass” is an early vision of how we leave lockdown

Link: https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/03/01/1020154/israels-green-pass-is-an-early-vision-of-how-we-leave-lockdown/

Excerpt:

Israel’s vaccine passport was released on February 21, to help the country emerge from a month-long lockdown. Vaccinated people can download an app that displays their “green pass” when they are asked to show it. The app can also display proof that someone has recovered from covid-19. (Many proposed passport systems offer multiple ways to show you are not a danger, such as proof of a recent negative test. The Israeli government says that option will come to the app soon, which will be especially useful for children too young to receive an approved vaccine.) Officials hope the benefits of the green pass will encourage vaccination among Israelis who have been hesitant, many of whom are young. 

“People who get vaccinated need to know that something has changed for them, that they can ease up,” says Nadav Eyal, a prominent television journalist. “People want to know that they can have some normalcy back.”

Author(s): Cat Ferguson, Joshua Mitnick

Publication Date: 1 March 2021

Publication Site: MIT Technology Review

Covid-19 Vaccine ‘Passports’ Raise Ethics Concerns, Logistical Hurdles

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-vaccine-passports-raise-ethics-concerns-logistical-hurdles-11614335403

Excerpt:

In Israel, a vaccine passport was launched last week allowing those who are inoculated to go to hotels and gyms. Saudi Arabia now issues an app-based health passport for those inoculated, while Iceland’s government is doling out vaccine passports to facilitate foreign travel. Last month, President Biden issued executive orders asking government agencies to assess the feasibility of creating digital Covid-19 vaccination certificates.

Proponents of the plans say they will enable battered economies to reopen, even as vaccines are still being rolled out, allowing people to enjoy leisure activities and go to work safe in the knowledge they aren’t harming others or at risk themselves. It could also act as an incentive for people to get the shot.

The concept is potentially fraught with pitfalls. It could discriminate against minority communities, who are less likely to accept the vaccines, according to national surveys, or young people, who are less likely to be given priority to receive them.There are questions about the ethics of granting businesses access to peoples’ health records.

Author(s): Max Colchester, Felicia Schwartz

Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Green pass: how are Covid vaccine passports working for Israel?

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/28/green-pass-how-are-vaccine-passports-working-in-israel?mc_cid=0edceb332a&mc_eid=983bcf5922

Excerpt:

In Israel, there is concern that the unvaccinated population, whatever their reasons, will be left behind or shunned. Small protests warning that green passes create a new hierarchy in society have been held.

Fresh ethical questions were raised last week when the Knesset, the country’s parliament, agreed to give local authorities personal details of unvaccinated residents to help them carry out targeted inoculation campaigns. Tamar Zandberg, a lawmaker, said it was a “slippery slope” for personal privacy.

Author(s): Oliver Holmes, Quique Kierszenbaum

Publication Date: 28 February 2021

Publication Site: The Guardian

Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine Is Equally Effective for Young and Old, Israeli Study Finds

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/israeli-study-finds-pfizer-shot-equally-effective-for-young-and-old-11614204008

Excerpt:

The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE is equally effective across all age groups, including those over 60, according to a new Israeli study, in a boost of confidence to global vaccine efforts.

The Pfizer vaccine provided around 94% protection against developing coronavirus symptoms across all age groups above 16 a week after the second shot of a recommended two-dose regimen, according to a study by researchers from Israel’s Clalit Research Institute and Harvard University. The study also found the vaccine is 92% effective in preventing severe disease.

The results are in line with the vaccine maker’s own clinical trial, but the large size of the study, which covered nearly 1.2 million people, provides more precise insight into older age groups that were sparsely covered by the drugmaker’s trial, according to the study’s authors.

Author(s): Dov Lieber

Publication Date: 24 February 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

A leaked report shows Pfizer’s vaccine is conquering covid-19 in its largest real-world test

Link: https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/02/19/1019264/a-leaked-report-pfizers-vaccine-conquering-covid-19-in-its-largest-real-world-test/

Excerpt:

A leaked scientific report jointly prepared by Israel’s health ministry and Pfizer claims that the company’s covid-19 vaccine is stopping nine out of 10 infections and the country could approach herd immunity by next month.

The study, based on the health records of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, finds that the vaccine may sharply curtail transmission of the coronavirus. “High vaccine uptake can meaningfully stem the pandemic and offers hope for eventual control of the pandemic as vaccination programs ramp up across the rest of the world,” according to the authors.

The nationwide study was described by the Israeli news website Ynet on Thursday, and a copy was obtained by MIT Technology Review.

Author(s): Joshua Mitnick, Antonio Regalado

Publication Date: 19 February 2021

Publication Site: MIT Technology Review

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine may curb transmission, decrease symptomatic coronavirus cases, Israeli research shows

Link: https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2021-02-19/covid-19-pfizer-biontech-vaccine-viral-load-drops-first-dose/13156116

Excerpt:

Israeli researchers have found that having just one shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine may lead to lower viral loads, making it harder to transmit COVID-19 if someone becomes infected after the first dose.

And it’s not the only positive research about the Pfizer jab to come out of Israel recently.

A separate independent Israeli study, from the country’s largest healthcare provider Clalit, found a 94 per cent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Researchers also found the fully inoculated group was 92 per cent less likely to develop severe illness from the virus.

Author(s): Lauren Roberts

Publication Date: 18 February 2021

Publication Site: Australian Broadcasting Commission News

Israel provides first signs of mass vaccination driving down virus cases

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/0cdc8563-1e6d-4089-bedb-b0f675c0d683

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Excerpt:

Cases and hospital admissions in Israel are falling steeply among vaccinated age groups in the first clear sign worldwide that Covid-19 jabs are preventing illness following a mass inoculation campaign.

Daily case rates among people aged 60 and above have fallen by 46 per cent relative to their mid-January peak, compared with a much smaller decline of 18 per cent among under-60s, according to analysis by a team from the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv.

Author(s): John Burn-Murdoch in London and Mehul Srivastava

Publication Date: 5 February 2021

Publication Site: Financial Times

Israel’s vaccine programme gives hope to the world

Link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/02/03/israels-vaccine-programme-gives-hope-to-the-world

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Excerpt:

OVER ONE-THIRD of Israel’s population has received a vaccination against covid-19 since December 19th. Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, has campaigned heavily for vaccinations, personally lobbying the boss of Pfizer, an American drugmaker, to secure early shipments of its vaccine. He was the first Israeli to be jabbed, live on television. He promised that “Israel will be the first country in the world” to emerge from the pandemic—by the end of March. (Conveniently, this is when Israel will be holding a parliamentary election and Mr Netanyahu believes success will boost his Likud party.) This was a bold claim considering nobody was sure that vaccines would successfully lower infection rates by enough to lift lockdown restrictions.

There is now evidence that the vaccination programme is having an impact. Analysis from Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, and his colleagues, has found that covid-19 cases are falling appreciably among old people in Israel. The effect is especially pronounced in hospital admissions: among people aged over 60 severe hospital cases have fallen by 26% since their peak on January 19th (see chart). In contrast, among those between 40 and 59—a group further back in the queue to be vaccinated—such severe cases have increased by 13%.

Publication Date: 3 February 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

Covid: Israel’s vaccine rollout linked to infection fall

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55706855

Excerpt:

Israel’s vaccination programme is showing signs of working to drive down infections and illness in the over-60s.

The fall appears to be most pronounced in older people and areas furthest ahead in their immunisation efforts.

This suggests it is the vaccine, and not just the country’s current lockdown, taking effect.

Israeli Ministry of Health (MoH) figures show 531 over-60s, out of almost 750,000 fully vaccinated, tested positive for coronavirus (0.07%).

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Author: Rachel Schraer

Publication Date: 1 February 2021

Publication Site: BBC News