Israel’s Coronavirus Manager: Pfizer Vaccine ‘Less Effective Than Claimed’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives the second does of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer outside of Tel Aviv, on Jan. 9, 2021. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90

JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Israel’s coronavirus project manager Nachman Ash told Army Radio last week that the first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is less effective than the pharmaceutical giant had suggested.

“Many people have been infected between the first and second injections of the vaccine,” Ash admitted.

He told Army Radio that the first dose was “less effective than we thought” and “lower than [the data] presented by Pfizer.” Pfizer had claimed that the first dose of the vaccine is 52 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 from 12 days after it is taken. A week after the second dose is taken, the claimed effectiveness is 95 percent.

2.5 million Israelis have been vaccinated with the first dose and a million Israelis, mainly high risk and elderly people, have already taken the second dose of the vaccine, but despite this the levels of infection have yet to drop significantly. For some people even the second dose did not provide protection. Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was infected with COVID-19 despite taking the second dose, although he did not experience any serious symptoms. However other Israelis suffered more severe symptoms and a few even succumbed to the virus despite having taken the first and second doses, although they were carrying the virus prior to taking the second dose.

There are signs however that the vaccination campaign is working, as the reproduction rate of infection has dropped below 1 and the rate of new infections found in tests has also begun to decrease.

The rise in cases despite the mass vaccination campaign has raised questions among critics regarding the Pfizer deal, with some publicly speculating about what information Israel is sharing with Pfizer.

A report on Israeli news site Globes claimed that “Israel will act as a large world testing laboratory, with the results from this huge research serving to set vaccination strategies in the rest of the world.” The publication quoted former Prime Minister Ehud Barak as saying, “This data is a treasure trove for Pfizer. With this data, Pfizer can show that it vaccinated an entire high-risk population in a country with no deaths wholly attributable to the vaccine.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted recently that Israel was able to obtain such large numbers of vaccines from Pfizer in exchange for “data and details especially gathered for Pfizer, including the consequences of the inoculations, side effects, efficacy, amount of time it takes to develop antibodies. according to different types of population, age, gender, preexisting conditions etc.”

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