Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90
Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center team members wearing safety gear as they work in the coronavirus ward on August 25, 2021.

Sixteen days after receiving a third shot of COVID-19 vaccine, there is a dramatic leap in its level of protection against the virus, according to a report Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 12 News.

Israel’s Health Ministry revealed data confirming that one week after the date of the third shot, the effectiveness of the vaccine rises to 86 percent in its protection against COVID-19.

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But after 16 days, there is a significant leap to 95 percent in the vaccine’s ability to protect one against the virus – and it’s even more effective against serious illness, with the level of protection rising to 97 percent.

Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech said Wednesday they have begun the process of application for full FDA approval of a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine in the US for those ages 16 and up.

Similar Data in US with Johnson & Johnson
The Johnson & Johnson company has announced in a press release this week that a booster shot of its vaccine results in a nine-fold increase of SARS-CoV-19 antibodies.

The booster must be administered at least six months after the first injection, the company said in its release. The study which produced the data has not yet been published, the company said.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been fully administered in a single dose up to this point.

The New York City Health Department, meanwhile, announced data on Wednesday showing that only 0.33 percent of fully vaccinated New Yorkers have been nevertheless diagnosed with COVID-19.

The review also found that 96.9 percent of coronavirus hospitalizations in the city are comprised of unvaccinated patients.

Oldest Israelis Protected, But Hospitals Overwhelmed
Two-thirds of Israelis ages 90 and up have received boosters; 71 percent of those in their 80s have also gotten their third jab, as have 76 percent of those in their 70s – as a whole, the sector most at risk of very serious illness and/or death if they contract the virus.

However, seven public hospitals in Israel have gone to Shabbat mode and are refusing to admit new patients coming in by Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance.

Hospital directors say they cannot pay for basic supplies, nor cover salaries need to meet the challenge of caring for the increasing number of COVID-19 patients due to a lack of government funding, as compared with government hospitals which receive their budget from the public coffers.

The hospitals say they simply don’t have enough personnel and enough beds to contend with the overload they are faced with, which is still growing, despite more than a million (1.6 million) Israelis having already received their third shot.

Expanding Eligibility for the Third Shot
The Israeli government has vigorously reached out to the population to encourage those who are eligible to get their third dose of coronavirus vaccine with a media blitz and near-daily press briefings.

This Tuesday, Israelis ages 30 and up joined the list of those eligible for a third jab. The government has been moving swiftly to expand the list of those who can take a third dose of vaccine.

In addition to the general eligibility of those 30+ all teachers and other school personnel became automatically eligible to receive a third shot, regardless of age.

Moreover, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told reporters Tuesday that the third shot will soon become available to all groups, ages 12 and up. The caveat for everyone to remember is that the third dose can only be taken five months or more after the second shot.

The other caveat to remember – extremely important – is that Israelis who receive the third jab are 10 times more protected from the virus than those with only two shots – BUT, only once at least 12 days have elapsed since receiving that booster, Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster reported.

Out of nine million eligible Israelis, more than five million have received two shots; 1.65 million have so far received a third dose. But even some people who received all three shots have become ill with the virus – depending on how many days had passed after the third shot when they were exposed to the virus.

But New Cases at Highest Rate Ever
Israel’s number of newly diagnosed cases jumped to nearly ten thousand (9,891) on Tuesday for the second day in a tow. The positivity rate on Tuesday was 6.69 percent – the highest ever since the start of the pandemic.

An increase of 101 patients in serious and critical condition resulted in a total of 692 patients fighting for their lives in hospitals across the country. Ten Israelis lost their lives to the virus on Tuesday as well.

The numbers continue to escalate; on Monday the Health Ministry said there were 9,831 new cases of the virus, with a positivity rate of 6.63 percent.

There were 114 new patients in serious and critical condition, raising the total to 690. Twelve people died from the virus.

Public Schools Set to Open in 7 Days — Then What?
It is one week to the opening of public school in Israel, and the Coronavirus Cabinet decided Sunday to go ahead with it. Initially, the cabinet mandated serological tests on all children under 12 as part of the plan to prevent an additional spike in cases from the education sector.

But that didn’t work out very well. After 1,600 tests were administered in the first three days of this week, officials temporarily halted the operation, described by more than one harried parent as “a total balagan (mess)” with long lines and in some cases a simple impossibility of getting it done.

But just in that short period, Health Ministry data showed 17 percent of those children who were tested came up positive.

The good news is that enough data were gathered to determine which communities had the highest rate of infection. Serological testing for children will restart on Thursday (Aug. 26), but only in communities where the rate of infection was more than 12 percent. Children under 12 in the rest of the country will be asked to undergo serological testing on September 1, according to a military source.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.