But in a blow to Britain’s strategy to leave 12 weeks between injections, the new study warns the first dose isn’t ‘very effective’ in reducing cases.
Israel started administering the second dose on January 10 and a stark divergence in caseloads between the older and younger age brackets shows the jab is taking hold.
Daily case rates for over-60s have plunged by 46 per cent compared to the mid-January peak, while there was a far smaller 18 per cent drop in infections among under-60s, a new study by the Weizmann Institute of Tel Aviv showed.
NEW POSITIVE CASES (rolling weekly figure): The second dose was doled out from January 10
NEW CASES IN HOSPITAL (rolling weekly figure): Over 60s were the first group inoculated and have seen a 35 per cent drop in cases, 30 per cent decline in hospitalisations and a 20 per cent fall in those falling seriously ill in the two weeks to February 1
Joseph Zalman Kleinman, 92, a holocaust survivor, receives his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19, administered by Rachel Atias of United Hatzalah paramedic service at the Clalit Health Services vaccination center at a sports arena in Jerusalem, Thursday, January 21
As of Thursday, 78 per cent of over-60s had received two doses of the Pfizer jab.
Hospital admissions have dropped by 35 per cent compared to mid-January, while admissions for younger adults have stayed flat and are even slightly higher now.
A similar disparity is seen in hospital admissions, with a 30 per cent decline for over-60s in the two weeks to February 1.
There was also a 20 per cent drop in patients getting seriously ill in the older age bracket in that period.
Another study by the Israel Institute of Technology showed that the Pfizer jab was between 66 to 85 per cent effective at preventing infection and 87 to 96 per cent effective in stopping severe disease.
Those figures suggest the vaccine is not quite as effective as Pfizer’s own data showed, but they are nevertheless very strong results.
The study’s author Professor Dvir Aran told The Telegraph: ‘Our sensitivity analysis provides an estimate for the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing positive and severe cases.
‘While this estimate is lower than the efficacy of the [Pfizer trial] it is still substantive and provides reassurance for the vaccine efficacy.’
But the study also found that one jab is not ‘very effective’ against Covid.
Britain decided to extend the interval between doses from the three weeks recommended by Pfizer to 12 weeks because of the unpredictability of supplies.
‘We see that immediately after the second dose the effectiveness jumps,’ Prof. Aran said.
However, he noted that this could be because it takes time for the first dose to work – believed to be around two weeks.
‘We will have to wait and see numbers from the UK,’ he added.
Announcing the Weizmann Institute’s findings on Monday, lead author Professor Eran Segal, a computer scientist, said: ‘We say with caution, the magic has started.’
He said they had expected results to show sooner in the data but that the impact of the jab may have been dented by the Kent mutant variant.
‘The UK variant is also the dominant one here now and if the reports are correct, this does not only spread faster, but it also causes more severe disease. This may have been another factor that off-set the [early] impact of the vaccine,’ Prof Segal added.
When the cases first started dropping it was not immediately clear whether this was down to the Pfzer jabs or a new national lockdown imposed on January 8.
But the new data provides strong evidence that this is down to the vaccines.
‘The effect is stronger [among older people] than in the younger populations who were later to vaccinate, and these patterns were not seen in the previous lockdown,’ Prof. Segal said.
A young man receiving a vaccine in Jerusalem on Thursday as Israel leads the world in the vaccine stakes and has started inoculating the younger age groups
A nurse prepares a jab at a sports arena in Jerusalem
Israel announced yesterday that it will ease lockdown measures from Sunday morning but keep its international airport closed until February 20 as cases fall.
‘What is most important is that all Israeli men and women over 50 be vaccinated,’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address.
‘Go be vaccinated. The vaccines work.’
Israel has been registering a daily average of 6,500 new Covid-19 cases, down from around 8,000 in mid-January, official figures show.
A strict nationwide lockdown has been extended four times to combat the infection rate, but January was the deadliest month with more than 1,000 Covid fatalities.
Israel has registered a total of more than 675,000 cases of Covid-19, including over 5,000 deaths.
Under the easing, Israelis will no longer be restricted to within 500 yards of their homes, and services such as hair and beauty salons will be allowed to operate, and nature reserves and national parks reopened.
Hotels remain shuttered and restaurants will be allowed to cater only for takeaways.
Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, where international flights have been suspended since January 24, will remain closed until February 20, the government said.
Land borders are to remain closed.
Since December, more than 3.3 million out of Israel’s nine-million population have received a first jab of coronavirus vaccines.