Israel Says Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine Is 39% Effective but Still Necessary

Israeli health officials have stated that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is only 39% effective, but still important enough to prevent COVID-related hospitalization and death. The ministry of health in Israel said the new delta variant is more dominant in the country and that Pfizer’s vaccine is less effective against it.

Just two weeks ago, Israeli officials said Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine had 64% efficacy, even though the health ministry in the UK rated its efficacy at 88%. But the Israeli health ministry further reduced the rating to 39% effectiveness, while still maintaining that people should still get it at all costs. The ministry stated that the vaccine still provides 91% effectiveness against severe COVID-19 illness and 88% efficacy against hospitalization.

But an infectious disease expert at the University of Toronto, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, noted that a booster shot might be important in the near future given that the effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines has been demonstrated to decline with time. He noted that with the approaching winter months, the pandemic might get stronger with the delta variant and that policymakers should be prepared for any eventuality.

“We’re still in the Covid era and anything can happen,” Bogoch said. “We have to be prepared, and we have to be nimble that people may need a booster at some point. This close surveillance that’s happening in countries like Israel, the U.K., and other parts of the world is going to be very helpful in driving policy if and when we do need boosters.”

Although the delta variant of COVID-19 is proven to be in 104 countries already, health experts said it has affected lots of fully vaccinated people, but the extent of infection is very mild and manageable. White House Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the delta variant “is clearly different than the viruses and the variants that we’ve had experience with before. It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting from person to person.”

A consultant to the FDA on COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Paul Offit, urged everyone to get vaccinated since this would reduce the severity of getting infected with the delta variant. He warned that when people do not get vaccinated, they leave room for the delta variant to mutate fast into more aggressive variants which become resistant to vaccines and natural immunity.

Meanwhile, Pfizer had been seeking approval from the FDA to manufacture and trial a booster dose on the grounds that the current doses of its vaccines are not sufficient to provide permanent protection. While the health agency has not granted the approval yet, the report from the Israeli Ministry of Health about reduced vaccine efficacy has emboldened drugmakers to mount more pressure on the need for booster shots.

“Initial data of a third dose of the current vaccine demonstrates that a booster dose given at least 6 months after the second dose elicits high neutralization titers against the wild type and the Beta, which are 5 to 10 times higher than after two primary doses,” Pfizer wrote.