Israel has not seen a single serious case of COVID-19 among the more than 6% of the population who have received both doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the government said Tuesday.
Even so, the country is still struggling to contain the spread of the virus among the general population, with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein saying Tuesday that new infections and hospital admissions for serious or critical COVID complications were now at record numbers.
But Edelstein told the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee he said he knew of “no serious morbidity” among Israelis eligible for the “green passport” issued by the state a week after the second dose is administered, when Pfizer says the vaccine is 95% effective.
Israel began what has become the world’s fastest per capita distribution of vaccines against the new coronavirus on Dec. 19, using the shot developed by the American firm Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech.
Edelstein said 0.014% of the roughly half a million people who have received both vaccine doses had contracted milder forms of COVID-19.
The minister also said that 80% of at-risk Israelis have been vaccinated, with 252,000 waiting to be inoculated.
Similar data was published by Israel’s second largest health fund Maccabi on Monday, which showed that fewer than 0.01% of people who received the vaccine had contracted the virus more than a week after receiving the second dose.
The preliminary results showed that only 20 people out of some 128,600 who received both shots have since been infected with the coronavirus, though none became even moderately ill.
“Maccabi reports that out of the 20 people infected, 50% suffer from chronic illnesses. All patients experienced a mild illness with symptoms including headaches, cough, weakness or fatigue. No-one was hospitalized or suffered from a fever above 38.5 C. Most patients tested for COVID-19 due to exposure to a verified patient,” the health fund said in a statement.
According to Health Ministry figures, 23% have received the first shot and more than 6% have already received the second 21-28 days later.
The ministry blames highly communicable variants originating abroad for setbacks in Israel’s bid to halt the spread of the virus.
A week after beginning vaccinations, it imposed its third national lockdown, which officials say may need to be extended into February.
But last Thursday it reported a reproduction number – known as “R” – of less than 1, which indicates that epidemic is no longer growing.