COVID-19 vaccines worked really well for Israel, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. The country's vaccination program is the most expansive on the planet, and has "pretty much eradicated COVID-19," in the middle-eastern country. "[A]t least for the time being," read the study.
This comes amid a global rollout of several vaccines to curb the spread of the global pandemic. But with multiple variants still posing a risk and future booster shots proposed by even the best vaccines, Israel's success may not last forever.
Schools and universities reopen amid vaccine success in Israel
"Life is now back to normal except for masks in closed places," wrote co-author of the paper Eran Segal, who is also a researcher at the Weizmann Institute, in a tweet. The scientists involved in the finding explained how mass vaccinations in Israel substantially reduced cases and hospitalizations in people more than 60 years old, "followed by younger age groups, by the order of vaccination prioritization," read the study. "This pattern was not observed in the previous lockdown and was more pronounced in early-vaccinated cities."
This means the vaccines successfully reduced case numbers and hospitalizations of and from the COVID-19 virus. "Our analysis demonstrates the real-life effect of a national vaccination campaign on the pandemic dynamics," added the team in the new study.
Segal outlined the promising numbers from Israel's vaccine rollout in a further tweet. Since the nation's last peak in mid-January, it saw 985 fewer cases, with 93% fewer people critically ill, and 87% fewer deaths. Following this apparent win against the COVID-19 crisis, the Israeli government let mask-wearing rules subside for outdoors — with all schools and universities reopening, according to an AP report.
The race is on to vaccinate the world before further COVID-19 mutations
However, the struggle against the COVID-19 virus isn't over. With several new variants of the coronavirus spreading — some with higher transmission rates — scientists are concerned about the longevity of the vaccines' protection. For example, Pfizer recently said a third shot will "likely" be required 12 months after the second shot. But Israel's success is contrasted sharply with similar efforts in the West Bank and Gaza — both territories under Israeli control — where progress has moved at a much slower pace.
Israel has received criticism for its lackluster efforts in helping Palestinian authorities to vaccinate its people. World Health Organization data shows Palestinians have experienced more than 21,600 cases — resulting in more than 2,670 deaths — of and from COVID-19 in the last month. "We are very concerned about the delayed and slow vaccination roll out," said Head of Mission in Palestine Ely Sok of Doctors Without Borders, in a statement late in March. "Frontline workers and high-risk groups in Palestine are nowhere near having protection from the disease."
Sadly, unless vaccinations in underserved regions are accelerated, the COVID-19 virus could mutate beyond the power of the present-day suite of vaccines — with the only means of evading this likelihood involving a more rapid and expansive rollout worldwide, according to Oxfam International. Even CEO Telsa Elon Musk has voiced support for vaccines in general "[and] covid vaccines specifically." Whether we beat the next wave of mutations or not, the race is officially on to bring an end to the COVID-19 crisis.