More Data Out of Israel Leaves Open Questions About Vaccines
It’s very challenging to draw conclusions on the risk levels and trajectory of COVID-19. There are a number of variables and they are being interpreted in various ways in the media. One day, we hear how protective the vaccines are and the next we hear about how vaccine immunity is waning. In the latest twist, Israel released data showing that vaccine efficacy is waning since they are seeing the rate of breakthrough cases escalate dramatically when you compare the date of vaccination i.e. January vaccinations are at higher risk than Feb, which are higher risk than March, etc. However, the much more likely reason for this is that Israel (like almost every country) prioritized their vaccine rollout for the most at-risk groups. This is mainly aligned by age with the elderly being first in line. It’s well established that the elderly have poor immune responses to both vaccines and infection. Their poor immune response to vaccines is almost certainly what’s causing the pattern of breakthrough cases. Or could it be something else?
Regardless, there is no doubt that breakthrough cases are happening at higher numbers than we hoped. The Delta variant is definitely playing a role. However, it still looks like vaccines are holding strong for preventing severe disease and death. It’s not as clear how effective they are at preventing Long Covid. It stands to reason they would be very effective in that regard too. However, individuals that might have died or experienced severe disease prior to vaccination might now face mild or moderate disease and possibly Long Covid.
When assessing risk, a good indicator is the rate of new hospitalized cases. It sure would be helpful if the COVID-19 tracking websites would break out hospitalizations and death by vaccinated vs unvaccinated. It’s hard to imagine the reason why this isn’t being tracked and heavily reported at this point. It’s much easier to track than cases. The only sources that have revealed insights into Covid disease severity in vaccinated vs unvaccinated are studies, and the news is generally very positive. However, published studies suffer from a long delay in data availability and they typically only look at a limited scope of data.
TrialSite includes a good website for assessing risk. It provides a running count of hospitalizations at the county, state or national level. It provides plenty of other info but hospitalizations are the most telling. Cases are muddied with asymptomatic and very mild cases which pose little to no risk. Deaths miss most of the severe cases and could greatly understate the risk i.e. if vaccine protection drops with the Delta and only prevents death but doesn’t prevent severe Covid.
As we see above, the hospitalization rate is going up again in Orange County, CA, as an example. It’s still very low but it’s impossible to assess the future trajectory. It’s also likely that most of those hospitalizations are in unvaccinated and immunocompromised people. It still appears that the risk to healthy, vaccinated people is exceedingly low. However, an individual attempting to make an informed decision on risk for themselves and loved ones is forced to make assumptions based on data lacking critical information. That data is easily obtainable, but is still not being collected or presented to the public. Why?