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In controlled testing in Israel, Pfizer vaccine 92% effective

Israel boasts first trial outside of company's own clinical trials

An Israeli student receives a Covid-19 vaccine injection, at Leumit Covid-19 vaccination center in Tel Aviv, on Jan. 23, 2021. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel is reporting an extremely high rate of effectiveness for the Pfizer vaccine after a local HMO ran a controlled study of its members that received the inoculation, according to several reports that came out today.

Maccabi Healthcare Services, one of Israel’s HMOs, said that only 31 out of 163,000 Israelis caught the coronavirus after receiving both doses of the vaccine, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.

And the Health Ministry released a report today that that “371 out of 715,425 Israelis who are at least a week after receiving two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have contracted the virus, a rate of around 0.04%, with 16 being sent to the hospital,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

This high level of immunity to COVID-19 comes about a week after the second shot. Maccabi analyzed a control group of Israelis with similar age and health profiles of those vaccinated in order to measure the effects.

The vaccine was approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer reported 95% efficacy in clinical trials.

Because Israel has rolled out the world’s first grand-scale nationwide vaccine campaign — reaching over 30% vaccination rate already — it has been able to also run the first large-scale controlled study of the vaccine outside of clinical trials conducted by the company.

Maccabi’s top vaccine statistics analyst, Anat Ekka Zohar, told The Times of Israel that Israel’s first result is “very, very good news.”

“It is the first study in the world that looks at such a large number of fully vaccinated patients,” she said.

And it won’t be the last. An Israeli hospital is gathering research on the vaccine’s effect on pregnant women in another world first since the Ministry of Health approved just last week the vaccine for use during pregnancy. This was a world first as well.

Ekka Zohar said of the 31 who were vaccinated but got contracted COVID anyway, they had light symptoms and none were hospitalized.

Before the studies were released, chairman of Yisrael Beytenu Avigdor Liberman said that a source in the Ministry of Health told him that the ministry was hiding important information from the public.

"Hundreds of people, mostly adults, have been found to have been infected again after getting two vaccinations. This is not one or ten but rather hundreds. The Ministry of Health is currently investigating but it has been decided to play down this story and should be followed up," Liberman said in an interview with Channel 13 News on Monday.

The Ministry of Health said Liberman's claims were baseless.

In any case, Israel is considering giving the vaccine to children younger than 16 as well and, according to The Jerusalem Post, at least 10 children under 16 who are considered high-risk have already been vaccinated. No data exists on the vaccine’s effects on children and pregnant women. Pfizer has recently begun conducting tests on children from 12.

Today the Ministry of Health amended its recommendation today saying women should avoid vaccination in the first trimester since it "is characterized by a relatively high incidence of hemorrhages, miscarriages and the formation of fetal malformations."

"To avoid any suspicion of connection, even coincidental, between the vaccine and the aforementioned phenomena, we recommend that pregnant women who do not belong to at-risk populations be vaccinated only after starting their second trimester," the ministry said in a statement.

Some 2,849,425 Israelis have received at least one dose of the vaccine while 1,497,781 have received both. According to the Ministry of Health, some 82% of those aged 60 and over have already received at least the first dose.

Despite the high rate of vaccination and the lengthy lockdown — which has been about one month so far in one form or another — the infection rate also remains high.

Nevertheless, the vaccine's efficacy seems to be proving successful and in any case, even before it was tested, the lack of data hadn't stopped Israelis from setting the highest per capita rate of vaccination in the world.

Helping to boost these numbers was ALL ISRAEL NEWS Editor-in-Chief Joel C. Rosenberg and his wife Lynn who went for their first round of shots on Wednesday. Rosenberg describes an amazingly efficient — and pain-free — process.

Here is a video they took of the experience.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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