'Real hope': Israel data suggests two Pfizer vaccine doses give 95% protection

6 May 2021, 08:22 | Updated: 6 May 2021, 09:50

Israelis have reopened their economy thanks to their rapid vaccination campaign
Israelis have reopened their economy thanks to their rapid vaccination campaign. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine can provide more than 95% protection against infection, severe illness and death, new data from Israel has shown.

A single dose of the jab provides 58% protection against infection, 76% against being admitted to hospital and 77% against death, the research published in The Lancet suggests.

The data will be of interest to the UK, which focused on granting first shots – with both the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs – to the most vulnerable before following up several weeks later.

The data, a national-level evaluation of how well vaccines are working, is thought to be the first of its kind – and the study's lead author said it shows vaccines offer "real hope".

Israel leads the way with vaccinations with 56% of the population having been given two doses of the Pfizer jab.

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By April 2, 72% of people over 16 years, and 90% of those over 65 years, had both.

New cases of coronavirus infection have dropped hugely since the vaccine drive commenced there despite the lockdown being lifted.

They fell from a peak of more than 10,000 a day in January to just a few hundred in March, when restrictions were eased.

The economy is nearly full reopen, sporting events have spectators and concerts are under way with audiences.

However, the researchers warned there is still uncertainty about how long immunity lasts, and variants which could evade their protection continue to cause worry.

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Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, of the Israeli ministry of health, who lead the study, said: "As the country with the highest proportion of its population vaccinated against Covid-19, Israel provides a unique real-world opportunity to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine and to observe wider effects of the vaccination programme on public health.

"Until this point, no country in the world had described the national public health impact of a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

"These insights are hugely important because, while there are still some considerable challenges to overcome, they offer real hope that Covid-19 vaccination will eventually enable us to control the pandemic."