Unvaccinated adults now account for the majority of severe COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Israel, with over six of every 10 new severe cases recorded on Tuesday linked to this group.
Around 15 percent of eligible Israelis over the age of 12 (some 1,105,000 people) are still unvaccinated. Of this group, 10 percent (755,000 people) are over the age of 20 and constitute nearly all of the country’s serious cases and deaths.
According to Health Ministry data, 63 percent of 57 new serious cases on Tuesday were completely unvaccinated, while 12 had received two shots and nine had gotten a booster. Overall, there are 644 patients in serious condition, of whom 472 (73 percent) were unvaccinated; 123 patients had received two shots, while 49 had received a booster.
As of Wednesday, the ministry had only one serious case under the age of 20 listed on its official data.
The most prominent common denominator among seriously ill patients currently filling up Israel’s coronavirus wards and intensive care units is that they are not vaccinated against COVID. Most of them are drawn from among the roughly 240,000 unvaccinated Israelis between the ages of 40 and 60. A smaller portion of seriously ill patients come from the 400,000 unvaccinated people aged between 20 and 40.
Forty-seven coronavirus patients are currently on ECMO machines, which replace the function of the heart and lungs and are used in the most serious cases where lives are in danger. No one with all three doses of the vaccine is currently on an ECMO machine. Of the patients on ECMO machines, 43 (91 percent) are unvaccinated, while only two have received the first two shots.
ECMO machines are a very limited resource that require a large number of personnel, placing a heavy load on the system and often requiring the closing or restricting of the number of beds in other hospital units. A significant number of the cases attached to ECMO machines are unvaccinated young people, which has provoked criticism and anger among medical personnel – some of whom have termed their patients “COVID fools.”
Over the past week, 129 Israelis have died of COVID. 65 percent were totally unvaccinated, 26 percent partially vaccinated (one or two doses) and 8 percent were fully vaccinated with a booster shot.
Prof. Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, said such numbers could be used in misleading ways if one doesn't take into consideration that the vaccinated constitute the overwhelming bulk of the population.
“You can’t really look at the total number of deaths and say what proportion is unvaccinated, because that doesn’t give you the whole picture because most people are vaccinated,” he said, pointing out that over half of all COVID deaths come from a small portion of the population.
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Instead of looking at raw numbers, he recommended looking at comparative death rates per capita, which show the relative risks according to age and vaccination status.
According to Health Ministry data for the past week, the death rate among unvaccinated people over the age of 60 stood at 6.3 per 100,000, compared to 1.3 for double-vaccinated people and 0.1 for those who received a booster shot.
For those aged under 60, there were 0.04 deaths per 100,000 for the unvaccinated, 0.02 for double-vaccinated people, 0.01 for those who received a booster shot – meaning that the vaccine “absolutely” has a significant impact on mortality, Leshem said.
“About half of deaths arrive from a small minority in the population that is still unvaccinated,” he added.
Haaretz also reported Wednesday that the latest coronavirus wave has hit Israel’s Arab community particularly hard. Data shows that vaccination rates among Arabs are significantly lower compared to Jewish Israelis.