The effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus has dropped to just 64 per cent in Israel, the country’s Ministry of Health said in a statement on Monday.
The new figure refers to the period between June 6 and July 3, and it is significantly lower than the effectiveness rate of 94.3 per cent in protection against infection, measured between May 2 and June 5.
The ministry noted that the decline was observed along with the spread of the Delta Covid-19 variant in Israel.
However, the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing hospitalisations and severe coronavirus disease is currently estimated at 93 per cent in Israel, it added.
The ministry currently promotes the administration of a third vaccine dose to those who have suffered a functional decline in the immune system, but there is currently no decision to launch a third dose campaign for the entire population.
Since the start of the vaccination campaign in Israel on Dec. 20, 2020, over 5.65 million people in Israel, or 60.6 per cent of the population, have received the first dose of the vaccine, while 5.18 million have received the second dose.
The ministry in its statement did not say what the previous level was or provide any further details. However ministry officials published a report in May that two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine provided more than 95 per cent protection against infection, hospitalization and severe illness.
A Pfizer spokesperson declined to comment on the data from Israel, but cited other research showing that antibodies elicited by the vaccine were still able to neutralize all tested variants, including Delta, albeit at reduced strength.
This spurred Israel to drop nearly all social distancing as well as the requirement to wear masks, though the latter was partially reimposed in recent days. At the same time Delta, which has become a globally dominant variant of the coronavirus, began to spread.
Since then daily cases have gradually risen, reaching 343 on Sunday. The number of seriously ill rose to 35 from 21.