Science

Covid-19: in Israel, the return to a normal life thanks to the vaccination

Freedom at the end of a needle? Faced with a strong third wave caused by the B.1.1.7 variant coming from the United Kingdom, Israel made a double choice to return to normality as quickly as possible: a six-week lockdown (from December 27 until to February 7) combined with a very rapid vaccination campaign. Result: 55% of the population has already received at least one dose of the vaccine (against 4.53% in France), including 41.3% with both doses, and the number of cases has dropped rapidly. “Lhe most important is that more than 80% of people over 50 have already been fully vaccinated and we are close to 90%, the goal we set at the beginning in the countryside, welcomes epidemiologist Ran Balicer, chairman of the Covid-19 expert council to the Israeli government at a press conference on March 3, 2021. The fall in cases was partly due to confinement, but also to vaccination, because it is precisely in the over 60s (vaccinated first) that this fall has been most rapid. ”

A reopening, but no collective immunity yet

This decrease in cases thanks to vaccines, already visible in early February, was confirmed on February 24, 2021 in an article in the New England journal of medicine which analyzed the plight of more than a million Israelis (half of whom had been vaccinated). “We have seen a 94% reduction in symptomatic infections and a 92% reduction in severe cases, summarizes Professor Balicer. The data is categorical, vaccines work and reduce mortality and morbidity caused by Covid-19!“However, he admits that collective immunity will not be reached quickly:”Even countries that have vaccinated quickly will not achieve collective immunity in the coming months, because it is not yet possible to immunize children. The studies to show the safety of vaccines in children are going to take time, so we will still have a few infections for a while. ”

And in Indeed, the level of new infections in this country of 9 million inhabitants is still high: since the end of confinement, this figure has stabilized around 453 cases per million inhabitants (against 387 in France), as well as the number hospitalizations (12.6 per week per 100,000 inhabitants against 13.43 for France on February 28) and serious cases, which seem to have stagnated at the same time as the infections (see graph 1). “The number of reproductions R is currently at 1, that is to say that the epidemic is no longer decreasing, but is not increasing either, specifies the epidemiologist. But thanks to the vaccination of the elderly, we can take some risks and we hope to be able to reopen some parts of the economy while avoiding the most severe consequences of the Covid. ”

rte third wave caused by variant B.1.1.7 coming from the United Kingdom, Israel made a double choice to return to normality as quickly as possible: a six-week containment (from December 27 until February 7 ) combined with a very rapid vaccination campaign. Result: 55% of the population has already received at least one dose of the vaccine (against 4.53% in France), including 41.3% with both doses, and the number of cases has dropped rapidly. “Lhe most important is that more than 80% of people over 50 have already been fully vaccinated and we are close to 90%, the goal we set at the beginning in the countryside, welcomes epidemiologist Ran Balicer, chairman of the Covid-19 expert council to the Israeli government at a press conference on March 3, 2021. The fall in cases was partly due to confinement, but also to vaccination, because it is precisely in the over 60s (vaccinated first) that this fall has been most rapid. ”

A reopening, but no collective immunity yet

This decrease in cases thanks to vaccines, already visible in early February, was confirmed on February 24, 2021 in an article in the New England journal of medicine which analyzed the plight of more than a million Israelis (half of whom had been vaccinated). “We have seen a 94% reduction in symptomatic infections and a 92% reduction in severe cases, summarizes Professor Balicer. The data is categorical, vaccines work and reduce mortality and morbidity caused by Covid-19!“However, he admits that collective immunity will not be reached quickly:”Even countries that have vaccinated quickly will not achieve collective immunity in the coming months, because it is not yet possible to immunize children. The studies to show the safety of vaccines in children are going to take time, so we will still have a few infections for a while. ”

And in Indeed, the level of new infections in this country of 9 million inhabitants is still high: since the end of confinement, this figure has stabilized around 453 cases per million inhabitants (against 387 in France), as well as the number hospitalizations (12.6 per week per 100,000 inhabitants against 13.43 for France on February 28) and serious cases, which seem to have stagnated at the same time as the infections (see graph 1). “The number of reproductions R is currently at 1, that is to say that the epidemic is no longer decreasing, but is not increasing either, specifies the epidemiologist. But thanks to the vaccination of the elderly, we can take some risks and we hope to be able to reopen some parts of the economy while avoiding the most severe consequences of the Covid. ”

Graph 1. Evolution of the hospital situation in Israel since January 2021. The green dotted line indicates the end of confinement. Click to view larger. Credit: Nicolas Gutierrez C.

The Green Passport: the new sesame for the vaccinated

To do this, the Israeli government has implemented a health passport, the Green Passport, which will allow fully vaccinated people to attend previously suspended events. “The passeport green is our way to get our lives back safely, despite infectionsadds infectious disease specialist Sharon Alroy-Preis, director of health services at the Ministry of Health. We cannot wait to have an incidence rate of less than 50 (new cases per week per 100,000 inhabitants, editor’s note). So we decided that a rapid vaccination would be the best way to reopen the economy while avoiding the worst consequences of the epidemic. ” For now, this six-month passport will allow its holder to attend events of up to 300 people indoors, 500 outdoors, including restaurants and cultural venues. And studies are underway to establish whether this six-month validity can be extended, depending on the amount of antibodies present in the blood of people vaccinated after that deadline.

The threat of other variants still hangs over the country

But this new-found freedom could be called into question by certain variants which can escape the immune response created by the vaccine, in particular strains B.1.351 (from South Africa) and B.1.1.28 (from Brazil). To protect itself, the country reopens the country to international drip flights (up to 3,000 Israelis per day). “We are very worried about the variants and we know that many countries do not sequence enough so we cannot be sure that they do not have these variants already in them., says Sharon Alroy-Preis. So we won’t fully reopen the country to international flights until we have a tool to make sure people stick to their isolation period after they arrive in the country. ” It is therefore only a suspended freedom for the moment.

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