At home and abroad, Israel’s Health Ministry had a rough week last week when its official COVID-19 statistics and recommendations were called into question.
While the number of new daily coronavirus infections is on the rise due to the introduction of the “Delta” variant, the number of seriously ill patients remains low in Israel. According to the Health Ministry, at least as of last week, that number stood at 46.
But a number of mainstream Israeli media outlets felt something was off about the number, so they proceeded to call each and every hospital in the country and add up the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
According to Yediot Ahronot, there were just 26. Channel 12 News put the number a bit higher at 32.
Outgoing Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy rushed to make an appearance on Channel 12, but appeared confused and out of the loop when pressed by his interviewer. In the end he admitted that the numbers didn’t make sense and could be slightly off.
Even more embarrassing was having the Americans publicly question the Israel Health Ministry’s assertion that the Pfizer vaccine is only 63 percent effective in preventing infection by the Delta variant.
Indeed, many of the people in Israel now being infected by the Delta variant have already been vaccinated against COVID-19. While the Ministry of Health notes it appears to be keeping most from getting seriously ill, the Pfizer vaccine seems to be less effective at preventing infection by this new strain.
The New York Times quickly noted that the Israeli Health Ministry had published this figure without doing a full and proper study, and US coronavirus czar Anthony Fauci stated that while ‘the Israelis know what they’re doing,” the data is sparse and the “circumstances of the reported drop in efficacy are unclear.”
Pfizer acknowledged in a report that actually cited Israel that its own trials showed infections occurring in fully vaccinated individuals, and pushed for the FDA to approval a third “booster” shot.
Both Israeli and American health officials said they did not yet see a need for a third vaccine shot, though Israel Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz did reiterate on Sunday that “the coronavirus is going to be here for the long-term.”