COVID: 3rd vaccine 95% effective against infection, 97% against serious symptoms

Shaare Zedek hospital team members wearing safety gear as they work in the Coronavirus ward of Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on August 23, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

*Almost 10,000 cases for 2nd day in a row, serious patients plateau *Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman: Stop talking about 4th lockdown and let economy work

The third coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective against infection and 97% effective against serious symptoms some 16 days after the shot, according to data by the Health Ministry reported by Channel 12 on Wednesday night after Israel registered almost 10,000 coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, but also a stable number of serious patients - 692, similar to the figure of the previous two days.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has recorded a similar number of daily infections only at the peak of the third wave in the second half of January. Back then, there were as many as 1,200 serious patients. Thanks to the high vaccination rate Israel has reached, now the figure is lower, also because of the drive to give Israelis who have been inoculated for at least five months a booster as their immunity began to wane.

So far, some 1.67 million individuals have received a booster shot. On Tuesday the Health Ministry opened eligibility to everyone over the age of 30.

Meanwhile, exactly seven days before students are supposed to return to classrooms, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz stressed that in spite of the high morbidity in the country, keeping schools closed is not a solution.

“It is right to start the school year on time to give stability to the system,” he told the Hebrew website Ynet. “We are striving to open it in the regular way, after students and parents suffered through lockdowns, interruptions, and more.

HEALTH MINISTER Nitzan Horowitz and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton attend a government conference, at the Knesset in spring 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“The simplest thing would be to say ‘do not open’ but is it a solution? We are also working to provide self-tests that all parents will administer the day before entering classrooms, and of course the education and immunization programs,” he said.

Horowitz reassured the country that the system to give parents the tools to send their children to school with a negative corona test is going to work.

“We have two million students under the age of 12 – and the instruction is to check the child at home, and give them a note that they are negative,” he said.

If a child shows up without the note, it will be up to individual principals or teachers to decide whether to send them home or perform a test on the spot, the health minister said. However, later in the day the Education Ministry said that no member of the staff has the authority to infringe upon the right of children to access their educational framework.

At the same time, the operation to administer serological tests on children under 12 – previously described as a major part of the government’s strategy for the education system – was temporarily halted on Wednesday after several problems surfaced.

According to a source in the IDF’s Home Front Command, which is carrying out the operation, the decision was made after doing 1,600 tests in three days and it was understood that there were certain municipalities where the infection rate was higher. The military is still working on a list of cities with high infection rates where they will continue to carry out tests.

Many parents have been complaining about long lines and the impossibility of accessing the service.

According to data released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday, some 17% of the children have tested positive. However, the rate has been very different in various communities, with as little as 4% having antibodies in certain areas and over 20% in others.

The operation will resume on Thursday, reportedly only in the areas where a high rate of children so far has tested positive – reportedly over 12%.

In other areas of the country, the operation will resume on September 1, a Home Front Command source said.

Also on Wednesday, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said he is strongly against imposing additional coronavirus restrictions.

“We need to stop talking about new limitations and let the economy work,” he told a press briefing.

“When we look at the morbidity situation, the numbers have stabilized and there is reason for optimism,” Liberman said. “New restrictions were imposed in recent days, and we’ll have to wait another ten days to know if they are working or not.”

Therefore, there is no need to add restrictions on large gatherings or for public pools and outdoor restaurant seating.

“The economy is recovering faster than expected,” Liberman said. “Any further restrictions will only harm the recovery.”

Liberman added that canceling unpaid leave (Halat) benefits for people under age 45 is contributing significantly to the recovery, saving the economy some NIS 800 million per month.

Liberman said that NIS 300m. has been budgeted to provide rapid coronavirus tests for children under 12 for free, and another NIS 66m. has been set aside for testing in schools. A budget of NIS 500m. has been allocated for PCR tests in July and August, he said.

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.

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