In Israel, 78% of the population over age 12 is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the Pfizer/BioNTech product. Nevertheless, the country his seeing a major surge in cases, particularly the delta variant. This variant is also the dominant one in the U.S. this summer.
Viruses cannot replicate without a living host to provide the cellular hardware for reproduction. With “herd immunity,” the virus can’t find enough hosts within which to replicate. Dr Fauci and other “authorities” are still telling us that once 70-75% of the population is vaccinated, we’ll have herd immunity and the virus will peter out.
Plenty of vaccinated folks in Israel are getting infected (aka breakthrough cases) and spreading the virus to others.
What is clear is that “breakthrough” cases are not the rare events the term implies. As of 15 August, 514 Israelis were hospitalized with severe or critical COVID-19, a 31% increase from just 4 days earlier. Of the 514, 59% were fully vaccinated. Of the vaccinated, 87% were 60 or older. “There are so many breakthrough infections that they dominate and most of the hospitalized patients are actually vaccinated,” says Uri Shalit, a bioinformatician at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) who has consulted on COVID-19 for the government. “One of the big stories from Israel [is]: ‘Vaccines work, but not well enough.’”
A problem with the Pfizer vaccine is that its protection against severe disease wanes over time. What about vaccine protection against death? Time will tell.
Israel politicians cut a supply deal with Pfizer early-on, and the population jumped on the vaccination bandwagon enthusiastically. At this point many of the vaccinees are over six months out from their original jabs. Pfizer admits that protection drops over time, hence the recommendation for booster shots periodically
Recent data from Israel’s health ministry suggests Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is far less effective at preventing infection and symptomatic illness with the Delta variant than with previous strains of coronavirus, a finding that conflicts with other research indicating high levels of protection against the contagious variant as countries around the world struggle to contain new waves of infection.
A full course of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was just 39% effective at preventing infections and 41% effective at preventing symptomatic infections caused by the Delta Covid-19 variant, according to Israel’s health ministry, down from early estimates of 64% two weeks ago.
The figures, based on data from an unspecified number of people between June 20 and July 17, are significantly lower than previous estimates of the vaccine’s efficacy against other variants, which initial clinical trials found to be 95%.
I haven’t read much yet about the breakthrough infection rate in those who took the non-Pfizer vaccines, such as Moderna, J&J, and AstraZeneca. I think the latter is not available in the U.S. In Arizona where I live, Pfizer and Moderna dominate the market.
Does natural immunity from infection provide better protection than the vaccines? I’m not sure, but I bet it does. For what it’s worth, I don’t recall seeing a patient with a second COVID-19 infection after having it once. But I’ve treated several patients who failed to be protected by the vaccines.
It’s time to face the possibility that we’ll never have great vaccines against COVID-19, just like we don’t have great vaccines against the common cold and the flu. At least the flu vaccines seem to be much safer than the COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 may become endemic rather than pandemic, with luck mutating to less virulent variants.
It looks like we’re never getting to herd immunity via the current vaccines. I hope I’m wrong.
Steve Parker, M.D.
PS: Can we skip our flu vaccines this Fall since flu has disappeared?