Israel Is Evidence Vaccines Save Lives: Study

More than 4,500 Israeli lives were saved between March 15, 2021 and June 26, 2021 due to the country’s mass vaccination campaign, according to a new study.
“The most effective and even cost-effective way to reduce disease and mortality is vaccination,” said Dr. Ronen Arbel, assistant professor in the Department of Marketing Technology and Health Outcomes Maximization Research Laboratory at Sapir College, who directed the study which was recently posted on MedRxiv.

In December 2020, Israel achieved one of the fastest COVID-19 vaccine launches of any country. However, despite their impressive campaign, the total vaccination level was not sufficient to induce herd immunity, in part because different age groups and sectors of the population were vaccinated more or less and at different times.

On the one hand, “this uneven assimilation created the theoretical possibility of a reservoir for the spread of increasingly deadly diseases,” the report said. But on the other hand, there was a theory that “easing the burden on hospitals could reduce deaths, as it has been shown that more hospitalized patients have resulted in higher excess mortality.”

The real question was: with 90% of the population over 70 vaccinated for less than 7 months, would Israel achieve drastic reductions in transmission and mortality? Or would this statistic simply push transmissions and deaths to younger populations?

Dr. Ronen Arbel (credit: ADVA ODEYA OGEN)

Using real-world observational data, Arbel and his team set out to examine the effect of mass vaccination on COVID-19 mortality, comparing projected to actual deaths from the virus over a period in which the country went from being largely closed to open.

The team included Candace Makeda Moore from Arbel’s lab, as well as Ruslan Sergienko and Professor Joseph Pliskin, both from Ben-Gurion University.

What they found was that confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the population older than 70 years after mass vaccination totaled 370 versus 5,120 calculated without vaccines.

“Vaccines against COVID-19 saved more lives than expected simply by applying

efficacy of the vaccine for the vaccinated population in Israel, despite a loosening of the government’s rigor, ”the report said.

Arbel explained that about a year ago, he and his team received a grant from Israel’s National Institute for Health Policy Research and Health Services to examine the impact of Israel’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Israel largely used two methods: lockdowns and vaccination.

Arbel said the closures were effective in reducing mortality, but these closures took a heavy toll on the economy, education and other aspects of health beyond the virus.

“Before vaccines, the reproductive rate only went down when we shut ourselves up,” Arbel said, referring to how many people a sick person could infect. “You would crash and about a month later you would get a reduction in mortality, you would open up and then after another two months you would go into the cycle again.”

The race was between how quickly the country could reduce the infection rate from the lockdown and be able to maintain it before the next lockdown was necessary.

“It was a vicious cycle,” Arbel said.

Three rounds of shutdowns cost the country up to NIS 200 billion, he said. However, vaccines “changed the rules of the game.”

“What we saw in our analysis is that the R went down and it didn’t block,” once the vaccines were implemented.

He said that even when the country was only between 30% and 50% blocked, compared to 90%, the more closed that Israel was, the disease remained under control, the cases were decreasing and the mortality as well.

Arbel said it was also likely that without the vaccines, Israel would have closed again in April or May.

“Our research shows that there are empirically additional lives saved over those expected by the efficacy of the vaccine with a strategy targeting the adult population even when confounding the rigor of government and the distribution of cases in groups of age, ”the report said. “We have shown that the real-world effects of a vaccination campaign are not necessarily simply the sum of the expected efficacy multiplied by a population, but that there is a synergistic effect similar to herd immunity.”

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