Israel has become the Covid capital of the world despite leading the charge on vaccines, in a clear warning sign to Britain, the US and other highly-immunised nations.
The country posted a record 1,892 cases per million people on Wednesday — nearly 0.2 per cent of the entire population in a single day — stats compiled by an Oxford University research team show.
That was significantly higher than second worst-hit Mongolia, where the rate was 1,119 per million, and double the figures for Kosovo (980), Georgia (976) and Montenegro (909), which rounded out the top five.
The figure only looks at one day’s worth of tests and Israel’s high rate is thought to have been driven up by a testing push ahead of schools reopening there.
But the country has consistently reported some of the highest infection rates in the world since mid-August amid an unprecedented third wave, despite being one of the most vaccinated nations in the world.
For comparison, 522 people per million in the UK tested positive yesterday and the figure was closer to 595 in the US, according to Our World in Data.
It suggests that protection from the Pfizer vaccine — which Israel has exclusively used for its rollout — is starting to buckle in the face of the Delta variant.
While Israel is seeing record case numbers, the jab is still protecting against severe illness with Covid deaths running at about half of the level of its second wave, even though fatalities have risen sharply since last month.
Israel has been offering booster jabs to people over the age of 60 since July and has managed to curb rising hospital admissions in the age group as a result. The country has since expanded the scheme to everyone over 12.
The UK has been urged to ‘stop hanging around’ and launch a mass booster jab programme to avoid a deadly wave this winter. But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), No10’s independent vaccine advisory panel, has yet to give it the go-ahead – leaving the country lagging behind Israel and the US, which is also offering third injections to everyone given two doses.
Israel has become the Covid capital of the world just months after leading the charge on vaccines, according to data that shows jab protection is waning. Stats compiled by an Oxford University-based research platform show Israel recorded 1,892 cases per million people on Wednesday — nearly 0.2 per cent of the entire population in a single day. That was significantly higher than second worst-hit Mongolia where the rate was 1,119 per million and double the figures for Kosovo (980), Georgia (976) and Montenegro (909), which rounded out the top five
While Israel is seeing record case numbers, the jab is still offering protection against severe illness with Covid deaths running at about half of the level of the second wave, even though fatalities have been rising sharply since last month. There is now growing pressure for Britain to roll out a booster vaccine programme like Israel is doing
Britain’s independent vaccine advisory panel, said it was waiting on more evidence that these people would benefit from another dose and claimed that the ‘vast majority’ of Britons still had high protection — despite the UK’s cases trending in the same direction as Israel’s
Israel has been offering booster jabs to people over the age of 60 since July and has managed to curb rising hospital admissions in the age group as a result. Professor Eran Segal, a mathematician at the country’s Weizmann Institute, tweeted today that hospitalisations had started to fall just two weeks after the top-up campaign started. This graph shows how Covid hospitalisations have started to level off in Israel just two weeks after its booster programme began. When the drive was started hospitalisations were doubling every week. Predictions suggested this would continue (green line). But just two weeks after the jabs were given out actual hospitalisations have slowed (blue line)
The JCVI said it was waiting on more evidence that these people would benefit from another dose and claimed that the ‘vast majority’ of Britons still had high protection.
Last night, the JCVI finally signed off on plans for third vaccine doses but they will only be given to half a million Britons with severely suppressed immune systems.
MailOnline understands the JCVI is waiting on more trial data from UK studies before signing off on a mass booster programme.
The group believes the UK is in a unique situation compared to countries like Israel and the US because it went with a much longer two dose strategy.
Britons had their shots spaced out by 12 weeks instead of the recommended three-week gap, which officials believe has generated better immunity in the population.
That decision was hugely controversial at the time, but the fact it seems to have paid off has meant the JCVI is not concerned about being an international outlier.
As well as boosters, the panel has also resisted calls to routinely jab children, despite countries like the US, Canada and France all pressing ahead with those plans.
A source close to JCVI discussions told MailOnline: ‘The JCVI is made up of very experienced scientists and clinicians who are used to operating under pressure and used to being lobbied about vaccinations.
A study by King’s College London last week suggested vaccine immunity against infection is already waning. Scientists monitored break-through Covid infections in 1.2million people who had received two doses of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine. They found that immunity wanes over time. For the Pfizer jab (blue line) it dropped from 88 per cent protection against infection to 74 per cent up to six months after the second dose. And for the AstraZeneca jab (pink line) it dropped from 77 per cent to 67 per cent five months after the second dose. Experts suggested the effectiveness could drop to 50 per cent by the winter
According to a study being reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, protection against hospital admission from the virus drops to as low as 75 per cent in under a year in some vulnerable people, from 95 per cent shortly after vaccination. Pfizer’s (blue could be as low as 75% in over-75s) while Moderna’s is around 80% in that age group
‘But it is also absolutely committed to basing decisions on the best available science and protecting the public.’
JCVI announces only 500,000 immuno-compromised Brits should get Covid booster vaccines
Just half a million Britons with severely suppressed immune systems will be invited for a third Covid jab after the Government’s vaccine advisory panel finally signed off on plans for boosters doses tonight.
Between 400,000 and 500,000 of the most vulnerable patients — including those with leukemia, HIV and organ transplant patients — will be made eligible for the top-up doses when the rollout expands in the coming days.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there was evidence to suggest a significant number of these people did not mount a strong immune response after their first two injections.
Adults aged 18 and above will be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna jab even if they were initially immunised with AstraZeneca‘s, after a number of studies showed the mRNA vaccines make safe and effective third doses.
Immunosuppressed children aged 12 to 17 will only be offered Pfizer’s vaccine due to a lack of safety and efficacy data on the other jabs in this age group.
The JCVI said a third dose was ‘very unlikely’ to cause any harm to immunocompromised people and had the potential to protect them, which swung the balance in favour of revaccination.
However, the group insisted the new recommendation is separate from a broader booster programme which would target healthy elderly people and other vulnerable Britons with underlying illnesses.
The JCVI said it was waiting on more evidence that these people would benefit from another dose and claimed that the ‘vast majority’ of the population still had high protection.
There has been growing pressure for the UK to follow Israel, which has managed to curb rising hospital admissions after rolling out boosters for over-60s in July. The country has since expanded the scheme to all over-30s.
A number of studies in the UK and US have also suggested that vaccine effectiveness is already waning in elderly groups. Health Secretary Sajid Javid welcomed the announcement tonight but said the Government was continuing to plan for a wider booster programme to begin this month.
Real-world data from the UK, US and Israel already shows vaccine efficacy has starte to wane.
US health chiefs this week released figures showing jabs now only cut the risk of hospitalisation by around 75 per cent against the Delta variant in very elderly people, compared to 95 per cent when the shots first became available — but they insisted its ability to prevent serious disease was still high overall.
And a British study by King’s College London last week found two doses become noticeably less effective at stopping infections within months.
Protection after two shots of Pfizer decreased from 88 per cent at one month to 74 per cent at six months and for AstraZeneca, effectiveness dropped from 77 per cent to 67 per cent.
One of Britain’s top Covid experts, Professor Paul Hunter, yesterday said he saw no reason ‘whatsoever’ why it had taken No10’s advisers so long to sign off on booster dose plans. The infectious disease expert, from the University of East Anglia, called for over-80s and immunocompromised people to get their shots ‘pretty soon’.
And former UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the Commons health committee, said Israel’s campaign was reducing rates of severe illness.
‘The clear lesson for the UK seems to be to get on with booster jabs, not just for the clinically vulnerable but for everyone,’ added the Tory former health secretary.
‘The latest study from King’s College London showed vaccine effectiveness dropping after six months, so why are we hanging around?’
Sajid Javid revealed the Government was continuing to plan for a wider booster programme to begin this month, which could include elderly people and patients with underlying conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Meanwhile, a ‘significant surge’ in cases is expected in the UK but it is too early to say whether that might mean the relaxation of restrictions needs to be rolled back, a leading expert said today.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, said if daily cases start going above 100,000 to 150,000 there will be ‘significant demands on the health system’.
The scientist, from Imperial College London, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it will be for the Government to decide on potential measures and would not be drawn on what form they might take.
Speaking to reporters during a webinar on Thursday, he said there are concerns about the effect schools reopening could have on virus spread, especially with the more transmissible and now-dominant Delta variant.
He said: ‘We expect to see quite a significant surge in cases, to some extent in hospitalisations, but whether that’s going to require any rolling back of the relaxation of restrictions is too early to say. It really depends on the level of healthcare demand.’
He said if an unvaccinated population of 5 or 10% all got Covid in a short period of time it would result in a ‘large healthcare burden, and a large number of deaths’ and that it could also ‘have a risk of significantly overwhelming health systems even in high income countries such as the UK’.
He said it is hard to predict how long any rise in case numbers, as seen in Scotland after schools went back, would go on for.
Just half a million Britons with severely suppressed immune systems will be invited for a third Covid jab in the UK after the Government’s vaccine advisory panel finally signed off on plans for boosters doses on Wednesday. Patients who are eligible are listed above
He said: ‘Obviously the relationship between case numbers and hospitalisations has changed now, fundamentally because of vaccination. So we can cope with much higher numbers of cases per day and still maintain hospitalisations at, well, the Government would say acceptable levels, and deaths would be even lower, but that only holds for so long.
Covid vaccines are less effective at stopping hospitalisations over time, US data shows
Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid vaccines become less effective at preventing hospitalisations over time, a real-world American study has found.
Protection against hospital admission from the virus drops to as low as 75 per cent in under a year in some vulnerable people, from 95 per cent shortly after vaccination.
The research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the lower threshold only applied to people aged 75 and over.
Most people still enjoy protection much closer to the 95 per cent figure touted when the mRNA vaccines were first doled out in late 2020.
Dr Sara Oliver, a viral diseases expert at the CDC, said even at 75 per cent the vaccines were still hugely effective — seasonal flu jabs can be as low as 30 per cent.
The study did not look at patients with weakened immune systems, but studies elsewhere suggest a large portion of them have low immunity after two shots.
The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have already green-lit booster doses for certain immunocompromised people, which will be rolled out this month.
But officials in the US are still mulling whether a mass rollout is necessary, with pressure building on Western nations to dish out spare doses to poorer nations.
‘So if we do get above 100,000/150,000 cases a day, then we start seeing very significant demands on the health system, and it will be up to the Government to decide at that point, or at some maybe earlier point, what the implications are for policy.
‘I’m not going to get drawn on what that might be.’
On Wednesday, the Government said there had been a further 35,693 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.
The figures followed a bank holiday weekend when there is usually a lag in reporting deaths and cases.
Meanwhile, new daily symptomatic cases of the virus in the UK were up 10% on last week, according to the Zoe Covid study with King’s College London (KCL).
They estimated there are currently 57,158 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK on average, based on test data from up to five days ago, an increase from 51,961 new daily cases last week.
Researchers estimated that in the double-jabbed population there are currently 17,342 new daily symptomatic cases in the UK.
They said cases in this group have been rising steadily for the last week and now make up 30% of all new daily cases.
On average 1 in 90 people in the UK currently have symptomatic Covid, they added.
Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the study and professor of genetic epidemiology at KCL, said: ‘The UK has enjoyed a restriction-free summer unlike most of Europe and even though a large majority of UK adults are now vaccinated, the rise in cases, as well as hospitalisations and deaths is one of the highest in Europe.
‘This is evidence that without at least some restrictions Covid will continue to spread.
‘Fully vaccinated people are getting Covid, but not only are they often unable to spot the signs of infection due to the Government’s outdated list of symptoms, we’ve seen evidence that the protection provided by vaccines is wearing off.’
He advised people to be responsible in trying to stop the spread by wearing masks, particularly in crowded places, good handwashing and social distancing where possible.
The latest Test and Trace figures showed the number of people testing positive in England has fallen slightly.
A total of 198,626 people tested positive for the virus at least once in the week to August 25, down 1% on the previous week.
The number of people testing positive has been around 200,000 in the five most recent weeks of data.