Data appears to indicate COVID vaccine protection starts fading after 6 months

There is a growing correlation between vaccinated Israelis who have been infected with the Delta variant of the coronavirus and those who were among the first to get the vaccine, possibly indicating that the vaccine’s protection fades over time, a report said Sunday.

However, some experts working with the Health Ministry cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions, since the sample size was too small and those who were vaccinated first are mostly the elderly, who have a weaker immune system to begin with.

On Thursday, Pfizer said it will seek US authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying that another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome coronavirus strain.

The company’s head of medical research and development, Mikael Dolsten, said in the statement that data from Israel about infections among people vaccinated in January and February indicated that “after six months, there may be risk of infection with the expected decline of antibodies.”

On Sunday, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily published what it said was the Israeli data Dolsten had relied on.

The report said that Dr. Arik Haas of the Health Ministry’s Public Health Service division had recently presented the data to the ministry, showing that “there is a growing correlation between those who got vaccinated early — mostly in January — and those recently infected.”

Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientist (Pfizer)

The data showed that the vaccine has still protected these people against serious illness.

However, many within the Health Ministry believe the data on the matter is still insufficient to draw conclusions, the report said.

In Israel, the first to get the shot were mainly people over the age of 70, who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

But Haas believes that even when controlling for age and other factors, the main reason for the renewed outbreak is that the vaccine’s protection fades over time, not that the Delta strain bypasses it.

In this March 2021 photo provided by Pfizer, vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared for packaging at the company’s facility in Puurs, Belgium. (Pfizer via AP)

The Health Ministry said Sunday that 261 new cases had been detected the day before, with 0.6 percent of tests coming back positive.

There were 4,130 active cases and 44 serious cases. The death toll was at 6,436 after five deaths were confirmed in the last few days, following almost two weeks of no fatalities.

The ministry said 5,728,526 Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose, and 5,190,709 have been fully vaccinated.

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