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Israel's and UK's aggressive vaccination campaigns show promising efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines

By Bim Santos Published Feb 22, 2021 4:12 am

The United Kingdom and Israel are one of the first in the world to have started their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and early indications show that their aggressive government-led efforts are already bearing fruit in curbing transmission rates of the contagious disease.

In the UK, which had its first COVID-19 jab as early as December 2020, around 17 million people have already been given a jab and the government is targeting to have all of its adults inoculated by July.

'Further and faster'
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC that to date, initial data show that COVID-19 hospital admissions are now falling “much more sharply” compared to the pandemic’s first wave.

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the UK is now at 18,000 from a peak of almost 40,000 over a month ago. Because of the encouraging signs, the government, which has been using the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines, is now ironing out plans for a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who previously contracted the virus, has been pressuring the government to expedite the vaccination effort, moving the previous September timeline to vaccinate all adults to July as he wants the rollout to “go further and faster.”

'Green pass'
In Israel, the government is now also moving to slowly reopen the economy after vaccinating almost half of their population against COVID-19.

A study reportedly conducted by Pfizer and the Israeli Health Ministry shows that the Pfizer vaccine is 89.4% effective thus far in preventing infections.

The study, which has yet to be publicly released, was conducted last January in Israel. During the period, over a quarter of the country’s population aged 15 were fully inoculated with the two doses of the Pfizer jab.

In terms of preventing hospitalisation and death, the Pfizer vaccine was reportedly 93% effective.

In line with the rollout, some businesses in Israel have been allowed to reopen, such as malls and some shops.

Citizens who have had two doses of the vaccine were given a “green pass” through an app, which they can show to enter facilities such as gyms, hotels, and theaters.

The expansive rollout in Israel came after the government struck a deal with Pfizer, by agreeing to share medical data in exchange for early and continued access to the vaccine.

Tricky effort
Establishing that the vaccines not only prevent people from getting seriously ill but also prevent them passing it on to other people is equally important in ending the pandemic. 

“It means that even people [who] aren’t vaccinated will gain protection from the vaccinated people around them,” Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of California, said in a report.

Different scientists are now trying to confirm the transmission-blocking effect, although some said that the effort could be “tricky” due to the possible effects of other factors.