Israel’s vaccination success made it a “laboratory for the world”, says the Financial Times in an editorial. It was the first country to reopen after double-jabbing 70% of its population by early April. But now it’s seeing an “alarming” fourth wave of infections. There are signs that the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness starts to wane six months after the second jab – for the over-65s, protection against severe illness from the Delta variant may have fallen as low as 55%. At the current infection rate, about 5,000 people will need hospital beds by early September – “twice as many as Israel is equipped to handle”. The country has responded by offering a third shot to the over-60s, and soon the over-50s.
Israel’s predicament might be unique – the AstraZeneca and Moderna jabs used in other countries “may prove longer-lasting”. Unlike many nations, including Britain, it didn’t extend the gap between first and second shots. But it shows that “relatively frequent” large-scale booster programmes might be inevitable “until the virus burns itself out”. After reviewing Israeli data, the US has decided to recommend boosters eight months after the second jab. It raises difficult questions about whether “scarce” vaccines should go to “largely unprotected” developing countries or be used to extend the immunity of rich nations. It’s a moot point: we urgently need to step up vaccine production everywhere. “The world simply cannot have enough.”
Read the full article here (paywall).