Israel doubles down on booster shots as daily Covid cases set new record


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Israeli lawmakers are keen to avoid another lockdown after overseeing one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives. New daily coronavirus infections, however, have just climbed to record levels.

While many nations were grappling with the rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, Covid-19 transmission in Israel declined sharply as the country vaccinated more than half of its population in around two months.

The country had one of the fastest vaccination rollout programs in the world, and by early June many of its coronavirus restrictions were lifted as new cases fell dramatically. But just days later, masks were reimposed as new infection numbers began to creep upward.

Around 63% of the Israeli population has been fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by Our World in Data.

Covid-19 cases in Israel have been rising sharply since July despite the high vaccination rate. New daily cases in the country reached an all-time high of 12,113 on August 24, surpassing the January peak of 11,934.

Just months ago, new cases had fallen to double-digits, and there were some days in May and June where no new infections were recorded.

There were 992 new cases of Covid-19 per million people in Israel as of Monday. By comparison, the U.S. recorded 446 new cases per million people, Our World in Data’s statistics show.

Despite high levels of so-called “breakthrough cases,” morbidity in the country hasn’t overtaken the peak seen in January, which is widely attributed to the vaccination rollout. On Sunday, 25 deaths were recorded in Israel — a far cry from the record high of 101 on January 20 this year. Over the past month, 476 deaths from Covid-19 have been recorded in Israel, compared to 1,471 in January. But hospitalizations and deaths are rising.

To be sure, everyone over the age of 12 is eligible for Covid-19 vaccination in Israel.

Vaccine booster hopes

Preliminary data published by the Israeli governmentin July showed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was just 16% effective against symptomatic infection for people who had received two doses in January. For people who had been fully vaccinated by April, the vaccine was 79% effective against symptomatic infection, suggesting that immunity gained through immunization depletes over time.

However, the analysis did conclude that having the vaccine provided strong protection against severe illness and hospitalization caused by Covid-19.