So what is happening? Why should a country that is so well vaccinated still be suffering like this?
According to experts, there are a number of answers. First, although Israel’s headline vaccination rate once sat at the top of all vaccine charts, it has gradually slipped down a middling position.
But more importantly, perhaps, vaccination rates among the vulnerable are not as good as they might be. While in the UK nearly all the most vulnerable are fully vaccinated, in Israel 10 per cent or more of the over 60s remain unprotected.
Another issue is that – like here – the omicron wave has been dramatic. “Israel has basically let Omicron rip, eschewing almost all the layers of protections we had including PCR testing, quarantine for contacts of infected etc”, one local expert told the Telegraph..
Barak Raveh, an assistant professor of biological modelling at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the number of those unvaccinated and the omnipotence of omicron only provided a “partial explanation”. The waning of initial vaccinations also helped explain why, of 822 deaths recorded since the start of the year, only 293 were unvaccinated.
“I do not mean to suggest the vaccine is ineffective at all – it is still 90 per cent effective if we normalize by population size. But what I think happened is some attrition in the effect of August’s booster shots”, said Dr Raveh.
Israel was the first to provide them back in August, and their effect may have waned considerably. It was believed at first that this affected only infection rates, but apparently, it also caused more cases of severe disease.