World’s most vaccinated nation declares ‘triple dose is the solution’

It’s the magic number we keep hearing day in, day out as Australian politicians front the public to deliver us the latest on our grim predicament.

An 80 per cent vaccination rate has been flagged as the only way Australians can “return to normal life” after 18 months of darting in and out of lockdowns, with restrictions updated on a near-daily basis by health officials scrambling to keep case numbers to a minimum.

Campaigning for the vaccine has hit fever pitch, with corporations joining the government in widespread education schemes to encourage those most hesitant to roll up their sleeves.

Results are good so far, with Aussies turning up to clinics in record numbers this month as NSW’s outbreak spirals out of control. Contact tracers have admitted the Delta strain is now moving too fast to trace, meaning the only real weapon authorities have against hospitals being inundated is encouraging the public to get the jab.

Current data shows vaccines are the most effective way to avoid serious illness if you contract coronavirus. According to Health Ministry data, the rate of serious cases among unvaccinated people over the age of 60 (178.7 per 100,000) was nine times higher than the rate among fully vaccinated people of the same age category.

The rate of serious cases among unvaccinated people in the under-60 crowd (3.2 per 100,000) was a little more than double the rate among vaccinated people in that age bracket.

However, new data from Israel has suggested dealing with the current pandemic is far more complex than inoculating four fifths of a country’s population with a double dose.

Unfortunately, our current roadmap might come with a catch.

Despite being the most vaccinated nation on the planet, Israel’s cases have begun to skyrocket again after travellers brought the Delta strain back home from overseas. The nation of 9.2 million, boasting a 78 per cent double vaccination rate, registered over 6,500 cases this week.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has already made clear another countrywide lockdown will “destroy the future of the country”. After reopening society following a successful vaccination campaign, the country is now being forced to reintroduce caps on public gatherings and bump up hospital staff in preparation for another uncontrollable wave of Covid patients.

Ben-Gurion University’s Professor Davidovitch, who is a member of the nation’s coronavirus response committee COVID-19, said the nation had jumped the gun after reaching their magic target.

“People were celebrating the end of COVID and this was probably too early,” he told the ABC.

Deaths have increased from five in June to at least 248 so far in August, with officials warning hospitals will begin to struggle once the country hits 1,000 serious hospitalisations.

Top doctors in Israel have confirmed half of Israel’s 600 hospitalised Covid-19 patients had received a double dose at least five months ago. While most of these patients are over 60 and have co-morbidities, concerns have been raised over the effectiveness of vaccines over long periods of time.

“For some of them the vaccine did not trigger an immune response, they had no antibodies, because of the illness itself or because they are treated with medication that suppresses the immune system,” Dror Mevorach, head of the coronavirus ward at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, said via Reuters.

Israel’s vaccination rates quickly outpaced the rest of the world as soon as doses were made available, with world leaders urging the Middle Eastern nation to send off excess supplies to poorer countries once their targets were hit.

Now, those excess doses are being kept on hand as a “booster shot” for citizens wishing to triple-dose.

Countries with high vaccination rates and a recent spike in Delta infections, such as the US and UK, have also reported similar trends. In the UK, roughly 35 per cent of Delta hospitalisations in recent weeks had received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

149,144 Israelis have now been given a third shot of Pfizer. Israeli national HMO Maccabi Healthcare Services conducted a study on the group, finding that a Pfizer booster shot reduced the chances of infection by 86% and reduced the chances of severe infection by 92% in those over 60.

Yet again, officials have been forced to backspace their initial claims regarding vaccine advice.

“The triple dose is the solution to curbing the current infection outbreak,” Anat Ekka Zohar of Maccabi said in a statement, as Israel announced it had lowered the minimum age for Pfizer boosters to 40.

However the WHO has rejected the call for triple doses with so many around the world still struggling to get their first jab. Underdeveloped countries with existing national health crises have been left behind, with superpowers like the US pledging to send millions of doses to the hardest-hit nations.

“Israel very much respects the World Health Organisation but acts according to local considerations and the interests of Israeli citizens. We help the world a lot,” an anonymous Israeli health official told NPR.

“If the U.N. didn‘t secure enough vaccines for Chad, Mali, Myanmar and Guatemala, that doesn’t mean that Israel shouldn’t seek to prevent a pandemic from happening here.”

As a result of the new findings, the US government has announced a booster shot campaign for September for anyone who is now eight months after their second shot. The UK has also promised citizens boosters, while Turkey is offering extra Pfizer doses to prospective travellers who have received the Sinovac vaccine, as a number of countries are still refusing to acknowledge the Chinese-made jab.

With the prospect of a vaccine “passport” already making its way through developed countries, there is currently no indication as to how world governments deal with the varying levels of freedom it will allow citizens, should booster shots be required across the board.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week confirmed “some rules” will still exist regarding vaccinations once the government’s magic number is hit.

“You would still have to respect some rules that exist around vaccinations, around social distancing, around mask wearing once the 80 per cent target is met,” she said.

Consequently, there is confusion over what the magic 80 per cent number means for Australia in a year’s time. Several companies have already made it clear they will deny service to those who cannot prove they are vaccinated. With the prospect of booster shots being needed to fight new strains of Covid-19, the future gets even hazier for those currently waiting for their first dose.

Will we need an eight-month booster shot ad infinitum? What privileges will someone with four jabs have over someone with three? These may be the questions we’re asking in 2022 and beyond as new information about the long-term efficiency of certain jabs is discovered.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already confirmed a shipment of 85 million new Pfizer doses to arrive in Australia next year for the “continued protection” of the community.

“This will ensure individuals, families and communities have certainty about their continued protection against the evolving threat of COVID-19 over the next two years,” he said.

While the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is yet to recommend additional doses, Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed the government was already planning ahead once advice changes on repeat doses.

“There’s no final decision as to whether a booster will be required, but we are planning as if a booster will be required,” Mr Hunt said in July.

“At this stage, our best advice is that mRNA and, in particular as well, protein vaccines would be the ideal candidates for a booster.”

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