Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90
Israelis receive a Covid-19 vaccine, at a Maccabi Health vaccination center at the Givatayim mall, outside of Tel Aviv, January 20, 2021.

The Pfizer-developed Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine’s ability to protect against the Delta (Indian) variant is significantly lower than initially thought, the Ministry of Health announced.

The Ministry of Health stated Tuesday that it is monitoring the effectiveness of the vaccine against the coronavirus on a regular basis, and from an epidemiological analysis of public health services over the past month, there is a decrease in the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing infection and a disease with symptoms to 64%, about a 30% decrease.

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The decline was observed simultaneously with the spread of the Delta variant in Israel, the Ministry noted.

However, the benefit of the vaccine in preventing hospitalizations and severe morbidity is estimated at 93%, the statement added.

The Ministry of Health “calls on anyone who comes in contact with a verified patient, including the vaccinated, to be tested. Especially among vaccinated people who feel the symptoms.”

The highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant entered the country with passengers who were infected abroad and did not abide by the quarantine requirements. The variant has spread to several cities and locations throughout Israel.

The government has issued a number of directives to contend with the outbreaks, with an emphasis on Israelis returning from abroad who are importing new variants into the country, after the virus almost completely disappeared in the country.

The number of daily verified cases continued to increase on Monday, with a three-month record of 507 daily cases, and a growing 0.97% of the tests done on Monday returned positive.

The Ministry of Health estimated that by next week there will be 1,000 daily Corona cases.

A report issued by experts at the Hebrew University over the weekend warned that the number of daily COVID-19 cases may climb to as much as 1,000 a day if the state does not take further action against the spread of the virus. The report showed that the R coefficient is 1.5, leading to a doubling in the number of new daily cases within about a week from about 300 a day to 600.

Thirty-five patients are in serious condition, as opposed to 22 a week ago, with 16 on life support.

While the majority of Israel’s population over the age of 16 is vaccinated, the majority of the children are not. The vaccination pace is slow due to a lack of interest on the public’s part. About 35% of youth aged 12-19 received two vaccinations.

Over 5,662,000 Israeli citizens have received the first dose of the vaccine, some 61% of the entire population, and more than 5,180,000, about 55%, have received the second shot.

Some 85% of the adult population is vaccinated, and therefore the effect of this outbreak on the health system and its ability to contend with a mass influx of patients is projected to be workable.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.