Science

REPORTAGE. In Israel, the bet (paid) of the third dose

In the corridors of Ben-Gurion airport, Israel’s largest, Nikolas rushes. In charge of serving passengers arriving in the country, he did not return to work until November 1 and the reopening of the borders of the Hebrew state, almost sealed since the start of the pandemic. The forty-year-old weighs against his “coronakilos” that prevent him from accelerating, but he is delighted to see the foreigners again, after eighteen months of being on his sofa. “The airport is still too quiet, restrictions to enter Israel are high, but fortunately the government finally agreed to bring tourists back,” smiles Nikolas between two long breaths. Now everyone is triple vaccinated here, the Covid no longer circulates, so that the whole world can return without problems! ”

At a time when part of Europe must be reconfigured, Israel on the contrary opens its borders, with one of the lowest pollution levels in the world: less than 50 cases per million inhabitants as of November 17, compared to 518 in Germany or even 180 in France. However, restrictive measures in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv remain flexible, even light, for a European. Wearing a mask indoors is far from systematic, the control of the Green Pass (the equivalent of our health pass) only takes place from time to time and above all, the Israelis no longer seem to have the virus in mind.

A respite for a few months

The difference with Europe is elsewhere: Most Israelis have now received a third vaccine against Covid-19, and its effects have made it possible to emerge from the latest wave without confinement. “The main lesson to be learned from this fourth wave is the magnitude of the efficacy of vaccines, emphasizes Eyal Leshem, infectious disease specialist at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. We have access to a very effective vaccine, which allows us to prevent no only the severe forms of the disease, but also its transmission. ” Above all, the Israeli experience has reminded us of the importance of measuring the effectiveness of the vaccine’s long-term protection, “as well as its resistance to variants, asks the infectious disease specialist. The third dose gives us a break of about months”. . ”

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Israel paid the price for the drop in vaccine protection after six months. The first country to have access to precious doses last winter, the Hebrew state experienced an unprecedented pollution wave starting in July, due to the delta variant. “It took us a long time to understand that the effectiveness of vaccine protection decreases over time,” said Science Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen.

The alert was issued by the Ministry of Health on July 22, which indicated that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine had fallen to 40% against the delta variant. Immediately, the use of a mask was reintroduced indoors and the health pass became mandatory again to access public places. In the process, on August 1, the Israeli government offered a third dose of the vaccine to all citizens over the age of 60, before extending the measure to the entire population on August 29. “We must prepare the infrastructure for the third dose and communicate massively to the public, it is essential for this phase of vaccination to be successful,” advises Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen.

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Despite everything, 30% of Israelis continue to reject any vaccine, especially the young, and in ultra-Orthodox communities. For now, it is not about making the vaccine mandatory, but the government seeks to expand the number of immunized citizens. It just approved, on November 14, the vaccination of children from 5 to 11 years old and made the third dose mandatory to keep their Green Pass. What to spend the winter in the shelter?

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