Israel says vaccine has almost halved Covid-19 cases among over-60s

An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon on Feb 4, 2021.
An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon on Feb 4, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Vaccination of Israelis over the age of 60 has reduced the rate of that age group getting Covid-19 by almost half and the number of serious cases in that cohort by more than a quarter in the last two weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday (Feb 4).

Israel began its vaccination programme on Dec 19 and has so far reached 35 per cent of the nine million population, the government says.

It has set March as a target date for reaching 50 per cent of the population in hope of outpacing high-contagion virus variants, but worries about ebbing turnout.

Netanyahu touted the success of the programme in televised remarks to his Cabinet, which convened to discuss a proposed extension of a more than five-week-old national lockdown.

"Over the last 16 days, among those over age 60, there has been a reduction of 26 per cent in hospitalisation for serious (complications) and an around 45 per cent reduction in confirmed cases. This is a direct outcome of the vaccines," he said.

Netanyahu has said that 95 per cent of Covid-19 deaths in Israel - the total tally was 4,975 as of Thursday - have been among the over-60s.

According to the Health Ministry, 84 per cent of the over 60s have now received the vaccine, made by Pfizer.

It did not immediately provide a more detailed breakdown of how many of these people had received both vaccine doses and when.

"Go get vaccinated. The vaccines work," Netanyahu said.