An Israeli hospital this Monday (January the 17th), has started research into the effectiveness of the 4th dose of available vaccines. This preliminary research suggests that current vaccines provide only limited defense against the omicron variant that is blazing around the world.
Sheba Hospital started administering a 4th vaccine shot last month (December). The shot was given to 270 medical staff. 150 staff who had received a Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and 120 that received Moderna’s vaccine.
All 270 medical staff had been vaccinated previously, three times, with the Pfizer-BioNtech produced vaccine.
Participants displayed antibody increases
The clinical trial conducted by the Israeli hospital found that both groups of people showed increases in antibodies “slightly higher” than were found after the third vaccine dose in 2021. While initially promising, the hospital said that the increased amount of antibodies did not prevent or slow the spread of omicron.
“Despite increased antibody levels, the fourth vaccine only offers a partial defense against the virus,”… “The vaccines, which were more effective against previous variants, offer less protection versus omicron.”
Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, director of Sheba Hospital’s infection disease unit.
These early results raised some questions regarding Israel’s decision to offer a second booster shot (4th overall) to its 60 and older population. The Israeli government said that over 500,000 people had received the 2nd booster in the last few weeks.
Dr. Nahman Ash, director of Israel’s Health Ministry, said that the conducted research and its results did not mean that the vaccination effort was a mistake.
“It returns the level of antibodies to what it was at the beginning of the third booster. That has great importance, especially among the older population”
Dr. Nahman Ash, to Channel 13 TV
He did also say however that the research would be taken into consideration as the authorities debate whether or not to expand the additional booster campaign to a broader age-related population.
Israel among the first to widely vaccinate, including the omicron variant vaccine
Israel was one of the first to widely vaccinate its populace, last year. Last summer they became the first country to offer its citizens a booster shot. The latest booster shot campaign for the population of older Israelis is believed to be the first campaign of its kind in the world.
The nation’s rather aggressive vaccination efforts have not yet been able to stop, outbreaks of the omicron variant in the last few weeks. The omicron variant is responsible for record-setting infection rate levels and has sent a growing number of people to hospital wards across the globe.
While the numbers of people being admitted to hospitals are still high, the number of seriously ill patients remains well below previous infection waves.
The omicron variant has also forced a growing number of Israeli citizens into quarantine, which has been straining schools and businesses. This is of course mirrored in nations across the world.
The omicron variant vaccine is still effective
Omicron is already the dominant variant in most countries around the world and can infect people that have previously been vaccinated – or had previously been infected by preceding variants of the virus.
Prior studies however have found that it is less likely to cause serious symptoms when compared with the delta variant. While omicron variant vaccines offer only a small boost, overall boosters and vaccinations still offer the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
On Tuesday, 11th of January, the Israeli government announced it was lowering the mandatory quarantine time from 7 days to 5, to keep the economy running. Israel is not the only country to do this, but it should be noted that considering recent vaccine trials, the world may be watching.
With regards to this relaxation, and as a final note…
“This decision will enable us to continue safeguarding public health on the one hand and to keep the economy going at this time on the other, even though it is difficult so that we can get through this wave safely,”
Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett.