By  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

The last blog on how effective vaccinations for  COVID 19 are is further substantiated by the example of Israel’s experience (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/05/world/middleeast/israel-virus-vaccination.html  ).  Because Israel has a centralized, universal medical system with a small population (about 9 million for the entire country, roughly equal to Los Angeles County), they can easily collect data and evaluate the impact of their vaccination program.  Thus far, they have vaccinated perhaps 20+% of their population with two doses, more than 33% with one dose.

Two findings are clear:

  • In just a few weeks after vaccination, the cases of the virus dropped significantly, as did the number of people hospitalized.
  • The vaccine seems to be almost as effective in the real world as in clinical trials.

Vaccine shortages, as well as a lack of funding, may prevent other countries from developing similarly successful programs.  In a personal communication for example, it seems that Taiwan has yet to obtain vaccines for its population, even though it is affluent enough to probably afford such a program.  Delays in getting people vaccinated increases the risks of new variants emerging, which  may be more dangerous as well as more easily transmitted.  Even with this successful beginning, Israel has had to enforce its third lockdown to attempt to contain the virus.

More specifically, the Israeli data includes people over 60 years old.  The data comes six weeks into the campaign, when the majority of people that age had been vaccinated.  The number of new COVID 19 cases dropped 41% compared to three weeks earlier.  Hospitalizations declined 31%.  Critical illness dropped 24%.  This age group accounts for more than 95% of the COVID deaths in Israel.  In this age group, 84% have been fully vaccinated.

Israeli healthcare services reported that only 254 people out of 416,000 vaccinated developed COVID 19 a week after their second dose.  All of these cases were  mild.  Compared to people not vaccinated, that is a 91% effectiveness rate (versus the 94-95% rate in clinical trials).  All the more reassuring is that up to 80% of the samples of COVID positive test results in Israel are now the UK variant.  The vaccine seems quite effective against this variant. 

There are still clear risk factors.  New variants, such as from South Africa may be more deadly and also perhaps less impacted by vaccinations.  Some segments of the population are less amenable to being vaccinated:  ultra-Orthodox Jews, Arab citizens, Palestinians, and perhaps younger Israelis also. 

Israel has now expanded available medicines to anyone 16 years old and above.  They may also require teachers to be vaccinated to go back to in-person classes.  They may require vaccination documentation for people to attend cultural or religious gatherings, or proof of recovery from COVID 19, or a recent negative test for the virus.  One expert described it as “very critical” to vaccinate the remaining people over 50 years old who have yet to be vaccinated “as quickly as possible” (estimated to be about 500,000 people). 

Dr. Alan M. Solomon is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA.  A  member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310  539-2772 or dralanms@gmail.com Telehealth sessions are available.

Copyright 2021  by  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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