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The protection conferred by Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine against mild forms of COVID-19 appeared to wane after a few weeks in data garnered in Israel as the delta variant took hold, although the shot continued to shield users against severe illness.
The vaccine developed with BioNTech SE protected 64 percent of receivers against the illness between June 6 and early July as the government lifted restrictions, down from 94 percent between May 2 and June 5, the Ynet news website reported, citing Health Ministry numbers.
More importantly, those who were vaccinated remained far less likely to be hospitalized, with protection dropping only slightly to 93 percent from 98 percent in the period. The efficacy against serious illness was similar, according to the report.
The delta variant, which first emerged in India, is sparking concern as it spreads around the globe, providing a real-life test for vaccines and dashing hopes of recovery in air travel.
Dervila Keane, a spokeswoman at Pfizer, declined to comment on the data from Israel but she pointed to other research that shows continued protection against new mutations – just slightly reduced in some cases. The evidence gathered so far suggests that the vaccine “will continue to protect against these variants,” she said.
In Israel, where social curbs were lifted at the start of June, many of the new cases are among vaccinated people, according to Ynet. Last Friday, 55 percent of the newly infected had been vaccinated, the website said. As of July 4, there were 35 serious cases of coronavirus out of a population of 9.3 million, compared with 21 on June 19.
The government is considering reinstating additional restrictions after restoring a mandate to wear masks indoors in public spaces. Officials are also discussing whether to recommend a third dose of vaccine, the report said.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has said people will “likely need a third dose of vaccine within 12 months of getting fully protected.”
Israel had one of the world’s most effective coronavirus inoculation drives and some 57 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated.