Bad news from Israel

Have you been watching the news out of Israel?  It’s not good.  Here’s the source from the Israeli government.  And here’s the money plot:

The two numbers of greatest interest are:

  • After six months, the Pfizer vaccine is 16% effective against symptomatic Covid infection
  • After six months, the Pfizer vaccine is 82% effective against hospitalization.

First, the 16% number.  This is supposedly adjusted for age, but the bottom line is that the Israelis just don’t have that much data for people who’ve been vaccinated for six months and then had Covid.  We’ll have to wait and see if this is consistent for younger folks with potentially stronger immune systems.    But the trend seems very clear from the chart.  Until we get better news, I think the most likely outcome is that your vaccine is starts losing effectiveness against symptomatic infection almost immediately, and it starts dropping off sharply at four months.  This is extremely troubling.  Because vaccinating the bulk of even a highly willing population (like Newcastle) every four months is impractical at this point, barring technology innovation, herd immunity is not possible with this disease.

The newspapers are not citing the 16% number.  It’s dishonest of them not to given who excited they get about citing case numbers.  (Oddly, I haven’t seen any coverage of the UK’s dropping case numbers either.)  They’re also not citing the 82% number, which is also very important.  There is a big difference between 95% (20x) protection and 82% (5x) protection.   For those of us in the 18-49 age-group, our risk from Covid is about 10x that of the flu.  In other words, with an 80% effective vaccine, we’re back in flu danger territory.  We’re safe.  But for the 65+ set, Covid is at least 36 times as dangerous as the flu.  Divide that by 20, and you’re in good shape (though the flu is a lot more dangerous for 65% than for younger people.)  Divide that by 5, and you’re still at seven times as dangerous as the flu, which for older folks is not great news.  Not terrible news, but not great news.

There’s always a worse road than the one you’re traveling on, though.  Australia just extended it’s Sydney-area prison-like lockdown until the end of August.