How good are the vaccines against COVID-19? That is a question on the minds of billions of people? Doctors want to know. So do government officials, business owners and the public at large. When Pfizer-BioNTech released clinical trial data on the vaccine, it almost seemed too good to be true. But now we have real world data from Israel. It suggests that the Pfizer vaccine protection is phenomenal.
Too Good to Be True?
Results from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID clinical trial seemed way better than expected.
“Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people without evidence of previous infection.”
Wow! But could the clinical trial data be replicated in the real world? The answer is yes!
Pfizer Vaccine Protection Is Impressive!
Researchers in Israel have just revealed the results of a very large study. It was not the gold standard: a randomized controlled trial (RCT). But it was big! The scientists compared 600,000 Israelis who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 600,000 citizens who did not get vaccinated. The participants were matched so that their general health and risk of infection were comparable.
What the investigators found was heartening. Those who were vaccinated were 94% less likely to develop symptomatic COVID-19 infections. These results are virtually identical to the data from the clinical trial data submitted by Pfizer-BioNtech. In other words, the Pfizer vaccine protection in the real world compared favorably to the preliminary clinical trial data used to get Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.
The Israeli Perspective on Pfizer Vaccine Protection:
Ran Balicer, MD, PhD, MPH is the chief innovation officer for Clalit. This is a large Israeli health system that supervised the Pfizer vaccine study.
According to Dr. Balicer:
“It shows unequivocally that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is extremely effective in the real world a week after the second dose, just as it was found to be in the clinical study.”
How Did Israel Get a Jump on the World?
Nearly half of Israelis have received one dose of vaccine. Over a quarter of the population has received both shots. Health officials plan to inoculate almost the entire population by March. Hospitalizations, serious illness and deaths have been dropping in recent days.
One of the ways Israel was able to vaccinate so many people so fast is a digitized healthcare system. By law, every citizen must belong to one of four health groups. These providers are found throughout the country. They can reach their patients via text or phone calls. People are told when and where to get their shots.
Everyone over 60 was immediately eligible. As people were vaccinated the providers expanded their outreach to younger people.
Whenever doses are left over, anyone can get a jab. And people are rewarded for stepping up to get a shot. They get a certificate of vaccination that has a QR code. This “Green Badge” system allows people who are fully vaccinated to visit gyms, swimming pools, sporting events, cultural activities, restaurants and conferences. The Israeli health minister has made it clear:
“Whoever does not get vaccinated will be left behind.”