Israel: Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine was overwhelmingly effective against the virus in a study that followed nearly 1.2 million people in Israel, which, according to public health experts, shows that vaccinations could end the pandemic.
Two doses of the vaccine prevented 94% of Covid-19 cases in 596,618 people vaccinated between Dec. 20 and Feb. 1, about a quarter of whom were over 60, teams from Clalit Research Institute and Harvard University reported a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.
The researchers linked each vaccinated person to someone who did not get a chance, who made the best analysis possible, or could remain outstanding results from an earlier clinical trial in the real world. The Pfizer-BioNTech shot cleared every obstacle. In fact, it was so effective that outside experts said it was possible to stem the pandemic with ample use.
On Monday, January 4, 2021, people will receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in a Covid-19 mass vaccination center on Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel plans to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population by April or May, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Monday and continued with a program that predicts an earlier economic outlook.
“This is the kind of vaccine that gives us hope that herd immunity may be possible,” said Raina MacIntyre, a professor of biosafety at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, who was not involved in the study. According to Israel’s efficiency levels, she should vaccinate about 60% to 70% of the population, should be enough to prevent infections, illness, and death, and have the best chance of resuming normal life and opening up society. ‘
After two doses, the vaccine was just as useful for adults 70 years and older as for younger people. There were indications that the shot would work slightly less well for ill people with three or more other diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. But the benefit remained strong, with 89% protection against Covid symptoms seven days after the second dose.
And for most people, the protection was already significant two to three weeks after the first dose.
The results were also positive for another fine-tuned feature: transmission prevention. Although the research team noted that the study was not designed to study transmission because participants were not tested proactively, it appears to have an effect: 92% of all documented infections, including those that were asymptomatic, were found among vaccines.
“We are able to get a real measure of the effectiveness of the vaccine,” said Ben Reis, a co-author of the study, who is director of the group of predictive medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard.
This was the most extensive study to quantify the vaccine’s impact beyond the strict limits of a randomized, blinded clinical trial aimed at measuring efficacy for regulators. This gave researchers the chance to see if any deviation from vaccination schedules or logistical issues for the shot, which needed to be stored frozen, would change the results.
Importantly, by the end of the survey period, as many as four-fifths of Israel’s infections were the most contagious virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom. She performed before the variant began to spread widely.
The new study results suggest that “the vaccine also provides at least some protection against the variant,” said Zoe McLaren, associate professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. McLaren, who was not involved in the study, said some sources of bias, such as differences in test rates or exposure risk, could remain between those who were vaccinated and those who did not. But the conclusion remains unchanged, McLaren said.
“This is all excellent news,” she said. “The implications of this study are clear: high levels of vaccination in the population will reduce transmission and keep cases low.”
The study is the latest in a series of positive results from Israel, which has the world’s highest rate of Covid-19 vaccination. In an effort to get as good a comparison as possible, organizers have tried to compare each person who has been vaccinated as little as possible with someone who has not been vaccinated.
For example, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man from a particular area, with a certain number of flu immunizations in the past five years and two other medical conditions, would match an ultra-Orthodox man of about the same age, same environment, and with the same number of previous vaccinations and medical conditions, said Noa Dagan, director of data and AI-driven medicine at Clalit.
“It’s very, very specific to make sure it’s really what we call interchangeable,” Dagan said. “As you can imagine, this process is not that easy.”
It will be even harder to find these matches as Israel’s vaccination continues, reducing the pool of potential vaccines that have not been vaccinated. But researchers plan to continue as long as possible, with more data updates planned.