Israel's 20% Unvaccinated Now Account for Half of All Serious COVID-19 Cases

While serious cases among a minority of Israelis who are not vaccinated against COVID are steadily rising, among vaccinated people they seem to have plateaued

Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol
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A coronavirus vaccine dose at a Maccabi Health Services inoculation center in Jerusalem, on Sunday.
A coronavirus vaccine dose at a Maccabi Health Services inoculation center in Jerusalem, on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol

Unvaccinated Israelis represent only about 20 percent of the population eligible for a vaccine, but they now constitute half of all serious COVID-19 cases in the country.

According to the latest figures from the Health Ministry, serious cases among unvaccinated Israelis keep on rising, and are on track to surpass those among the inoculated.

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There are no recorded serious cases among Israelis under the age of 12, who are not eligible for a vaccine under the current guidelines.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 330 out of 679 seriously ill patients were unvaccinated, while 16 were partially vaccinated and 333 were fully vaccinated. There are 168 patients currently in critical condition and 123 are on ventilators. Even so, the number of seriously ill vaccinated patients appears to have plateaued.

Prof. Ran Balicer, who heads a committee of experts advising the Health Ministry on the coronavirus pandemic, referred to the change in a tweet on Tuesday. He wrote that the "trend" of unvaccinated people becoming the majority of new seriously ill patients is continuing, and said that on Monday, over 50 percent of the new patients in serious condition were unvaccinated.

There was a lull in infections and deaths at the beginning of the summer, largely attributed to the Israeli government's successful inoculation campaign. Over 5.4 million out of 7.1 eligible Israelis have been vaccinated. But due to the spread of the delta variant, cases have risen significantly since the end of July.

Despite public health officials' best efforts, some 1,080,000 eligible Israelis remain unvaccinated, the ministry announced on Monday evening.

This month has seen a modest increase in the number of the number of Israelis receiving their first dose, with the number of first shots administered per day rising from 3,023 on August 1 to 10,982 on Monday.

Despite the decreasing effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing infection, it still provides significant protection against severe illness.

As of August 21, the Health Ministry recorded 215.9 severe COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people among the unvaccinated over the age of 60, compared to 21 per 100,000 people among those who had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. This makes unvaccinated older people more than 10 times as likely to experience a severe case as their immunized counterparts.

Around 1.5 million Israelis have already received a third booster shot, which a recent Maccabi Healthcare Services study found was 86 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection among people 60 and older.

"The third shot is highly effective both against infection and serious illness,” Anat Ekka Zohar, the head of Maccabi’s Quality, Research and Digital Health Division, said last week, urging anyone eligible to get vaccinated.

"The vaccine’s effectiveness is proving itself against the delta variant and is the solution for curbing widespread infection,” she added. Further data and analysis confirmed the booster shot significantly lowers infections and serious cases.

According to ministry data, Israel hit a seven-month record in new COVID infections this week, logging almost 10,000 new cases on Monday, bringing up the total number of Israelis who have been infected since February to 1,005,511.

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