The COVID vaccines have been a major source of hope that the world will return to normal sooner rather than later. The CDC boosted that hope this week by releasing guidelines that allow fully vaccinated people to socialize with fewer precautions. Some experts think the CDC is still being overly cautious, largely because they don’t know how many vaccinated people carry COVID-19 without symptoms. But new data from Israel reveals that the Pfizer vaccine blocks a whopping 94 percent of asymptomatic infections.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, also found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is at least 97 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, hospitalizations, and death. Unvaccinated people were 44 times more likely to develop the symptomatic disease and 29 times more likely to die from COVID-19. So far, this is the most comprehensive real-world evidence in support of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“For those who are vaccine hesitant, hopefully data like that shows that these vaccines are unbelievably effective at not just preventing severe disease, but also markedly reducing infection,” Todd Ellerin, director of Infectious Diseases at South Shore Health, told ABC News. “And if you can reduce infection, you will reduce transmission.”
Israel is the country with the highest percentage of its population vaccinated. About 55 percent have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and 43 have received both as of Wednesday, according to Reuters.
The study was conducted at a time in Israel when more than 80 percent of COVID-19 cases were caused by the B.1.1.7. variant that originated in the UK. So, it provides good evidence that at least the Pfizer vaccine is effective against this COVID-19 variant, which is more contagious and probably more deadly than the original coronavirus.
The results are promising, particularly because asymptomatic infections cause about half of all new COVID-19 cases, according to a study from January. However, real-world data on both asymptomatic infections and vaccine efficacy against the B.1.1.7. variant is still needed for other vaccines, including the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
“This clearly demonstrates the power of the COVID-19 vaccine to fight this virus and encourages us to continue even more intensively with our vaccination campaign,” said Yeheskel Levy, Israel Ministry of Health Director, in a press release. “We aim to achieve even higher uptake in people of all ages, which gives us hope of regaining normal economic and social function in the not so distant future.”