Israel has now vaccinated half its population against Covid-19, another milestone on the way to subduing the pandemic.
More than 4.6 million people have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, according to Health Ministry data released Friday. With nearly 8% of the country having recovered from the disease and likely developing some resistance to reinfection, that could bring Israel closer to herd immunity.
Vaccinating about 60% to 70% of the population should be enough to rein in infections, illness and death, estimates Raina MacIntyre, a professor of biosecurity at the University of New South Wales, based off the latest data from Israel.
Hospitals have seen a steady drop in critically ill cases over the past few weeks now that more than 90% of those in the highest risk groups have been vaccinated or have convalesced from infection.
The rate of overall spread has also slowed after Israel expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone older than 16 earlier this month. Almost 3.3 million people have been given two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.
Israel’s vaccine campaign raced ahead of the world after the government inked a deal with Pfizer in exchange for data on the inoculation program. The government started lifting restrictions on the economy in recent weeks as the load on hospitals began to diminish.
Reaching herd immunity will still be a challenge given that 30% of the population is at the moment too young to be vaccinated. That may change depending on the results from clinical trials in kids aged 12-15 by Pfizer and Moderna Inc., which are expected in a few months.