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Pfizer Vaccine Data in Israel Gives Clues on Herd Immunity: Scientists

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The Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccines have appeared to stop the vast majority of recipients in Israel from becoming infected, providing the first real-world indication that the immunization will curb transmission of the coronavirus.

The vaccine, which is being rolled out in a national immunization program that began December 20, was 89.4% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed infections, according to a copy of a draft publication that was posted on Twitter and confirmed by a person familiar with the work. The companies worked with Israel’s Health Ministry on the preliminary observational analysis, which was not peer-reviewed. Some scientists disputed its accuracy.

The results are the latest in a series of positive data to emerge out of Israel, which has given more Covid vaccines per capita than anywhere else in the world. Almost half of the population has had at least one dose of vaccine. Separately, Israeli authorities on Saturday said the Pfizer-BioNTech shot was 99% effective at preventing deaths from the virus.

If confirmed, the early results on lab-tested infections are encouraging because they indicate the vaccine may also prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus that causes Covid-19. That’s not been clear because the clinical trials that tested the safety and efficacy of vaccines focused on the ability to stop symptomatic infections.

These are the data we need to see to estimate the potential for achieving herd immunity with vaccines. However, we do need to be able to see the data published in a peer-reviewed journal and to be able to scrutinize the data in detail,” said Raina MacIntyre, professor of biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

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