Vaccine containers in a mobile vaccination center in Israel (archive image)
Photo: JACK GUEZ / AFP
Experts in the corona pandemic are worried about one anxious question: How effective are the vaccinations against the much more easily transmissible Delta variant?
Preliminary figures from Israel seem worrying at first glance.
According to reports from the Israeli media, which refer to current data from the Ministry of Health, the effectiveness of the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine in protecting against mild corona symptoms, i.e. infection, is currently only 39 percent.
In severe cases, the protection is still 91 percent, in the case of hospitalizations, 88 percent.
So far, according to the information, 5.7 million people in Israel have received their first vaccination, 5.2 million also the second vaccination.
After a total of 1,152,914 tests, 5770 infections were still registered among the double-vaccinated.
Of these patients, 334 came to the hospital with a severe course and 123 died.
More positive data from other countries
But the informative value of the data is controversial.
There is still no scientific publication on the new figures.
The results should therefore be viewed with appropriate caution.
Figures from Great Britain that have just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine paint a different picture of the situation.
According to this, the effectiveness of the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine after two vaccinations is around 88 percent, even in the case of the Delta variant.
A corona disease with symptoms of all kinds was considered.
Experts in Israel also point out that the Ministry of Health's data may be skewed.
This has to do with the fact that a large part of the tests in the country took place in a few corona hot spots, also among the elderly.
Younger and double-vaccinated people, on the other hand, were hardly tested.
The effectiveness of the protection against mild symptoms is therefore difficult to assess.
An earlier study on illnesses despite double vaccination in Israel had shown that those affected in this case often suffered from previous illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer.
It is also important for classification that an effectiveness of 40 percent does not mean that the other 60 percent of the population will automatically get sick (read here why that is so).
Even so, Biontech and Pfizer are working towards getting a third dose of their vaccine approved.
It is likely that this "will be required within six to twelve months after the full vaccination," according to the company.
Internal study data showed that a third dose increased the amount of antibodies five to ten fold.
If a third vaccination is approved, the companies should hope for high income.
All over the world, cases of so-called vaccination breakthroughs show that third-party vaccinations are needed to prevent infections more reliably.
If it were only about preventing massive hospital admissions, that would not necessarily be the case.
A special variant of the vaccine, which is aimed specifically against the Delta variant, is already being worked on.
So far, there is no official vaccination recommendation for a third vaccination either in Europe or in the USA.
Researchers had also been rather critical after the companies' push for third-party vaccinations.
"I still think it's too early to be able to assess whether we actually need booster vaccinations," said Hajo Zeeb from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Bremen.
In the US, the regulatory authorities recently asked Pfizer to provide further data on the need for a third-party vaccination.