The perspective is what we would all like to have. Get out of the Covid pandemic – which has killed over 4 and a half million people worldwide and caused social, psychological and economic damage that is not yet calculated – as soon as possible and see Sars The 2 or suddenly disappear like Sars, the first coronavirus that scared the world in 2002, or be able to reduce it to an endemic virus, as flu is today. For Arnon Shahar, head of the Maccabi Healthcare Services anti-Covid task force in Israel, it will be possible to transform l’epidemia in endemia’ when they will be vaccinated “Everyone, including babies”.
For this reason in Israel, a pioneer country in immunization that is also undergoing a fourth wave of infections caused by Delta variant, it is assumed that the third dose will also be administered to the very young when their protection decreases about five months after the second dose. “This vaccine is something the world must be proud of. Vaccination plans have saved countless lives and that’s the most important thing. I cannot accept the concept that we cannot contain deaths among older people, ”the doctor tells the fattoquotidiano.it. After all, he explains Shahar without the booster Israel “would have been a month in lockdown“. But not only the third dose “also gives a very high protection from contagion”.
There are already nearly 3 million people who they received the third dose and Sharon Alroy-Preis, director of public health, explained that the majority of the new severe cases refer to “unvaccinated people”.
Is it true that you are thinking of vaccine boosters every six months?
Not only us, the whole world is asking this question. We wonder if we will have to repeat the vaccine annually, or every six months or every nine months or do a booster mix with the flu. It will all depend on the variants. Obviously, we’re moving on to the third dose and looking at the numbers. We are trying to figure out where we are going. The hypothesis exists, but we don’t know yet. There will still be a recall.
Many scientists remind us that the measurement of antibodies is a crude parameter and that one can be protected even with a low number of antibodies because there are memory cells that can activate and produce them in a short time.
In fact, our decision on the third dose is not based on this (the measurement of antibodies, ed), but it is only one element. We have observed infections in double-vaccinated people although not in younger boys who have recently received the vaccination. We know there are neutralizing antibodies and cellular memory. There are several components of the immune system that affect a person’s immunization. For example, for measles you may have few antibodies, but still be protected.
What prompted you to start vaccinating the population with the third dose so early?
We observed the decrease in immunity for five months after the second injection.
One of your studies hypothesizes that vaccinated people have 13 times more risk of getting infected with Delta than the “recovered”. Can you explain us better?
As we know, the disease gives perhaps even greater protection than that of the vaccine. It is no coincidence that we do not administer the double vaccination even after a recovery. It is not a mistake to do this, but it is not recommended. The British do it, for example. However, this does not mean that it is better to take the disease to be protected. As we have seen, even unvaccinated young people who get sick can die.
In several interviews, you recalled that Israel shares the data collected with the entire scientific community. Are there any advances you can spread about the latest studies?
I feel I have made a contribution to the Italian vaccination campaign, I feel a bit of being part of it. I think I’ve given over a hundred interviews and auditioned a lot. For me it is very important. We were the first to start and it is our duty to make people understand. A few weeks ago we shared data between first and second doses on safety also in relation to cases of myocarditis. Now we’ll have the ones on the third dose. It is no coincidence that after receiving criticism of our third dose initiative, many countries are now following it. Like the United States that started with the immunosuppressed and then will vaccinate everyone.
Will the third dose also be given to younger people in Israel?
Yes, from 12 onwards. When the time comes though, considering they’ve been vaccinated recently. It must be remembered that we are undergoing a fairly heavy fourth wave. Without the booster we would have probably been in lockdown for a month.
So will you also vaccinate children under 12? In some countries such as Germany and Great Britain, some independent health institutions believe that pediatric vaccination is not beneficial
What pushed us in this direction was when we asked ourselves why we are undergoing this fourth wave in view of a very high percentage of the vaccinated population. With the third booster we see not only protection from serious illness and this is the most important thing for the most frail, but that the third dose gives very high protection from contagion.
So with the third dose comes a “sterilizing” effect with respect to contagion?
This is an important thing. Of course we are waiting to be able to vaccinate the little ones. When we get the approval for the under 12s. When we understand that it is right and safe we will start with them too.
And the vaccination of even younger children?
In Israel we have already vaccinated those between 5 and 12 years with the opinion of the extraordinary commission for health reasons: they are immunosuppressed or with cardiopulmonary diseases. Children who have a high risk if they get sick, a higher risk than getting vaccinated. Parents want to vaccinate them because they have diseases that expose them to a very serious Covid or even death. We also did this for the 12-15 year old risk group before everyone else in the world, they are very special groups. For them, the greatest risk comes from the disease.
According to the numbers of the ourworldindata website, Spain and Portugal have very high rates of vaccination: over 75% of the population with double doses and over 80% with at least one looking at the contagion curves appear to be decreasing. What do you think?
I don’t think we’ll get to herd immunity without vaccinating the babies. This is the first thing, the second is that we don’t know why there are these waves. We haven’t figured it out yet. We don’t know why there is this up and down. It is the mystery of this disease.
Israel was a pioneer country in the vaccination campaign but as you say you are undergoing a heavy fourth wave. If you could make extraordinary decisions what would you think?
When we manage to vaccinate everyone, we will stop checking the asymptomatic and counting them and thus turn this pandemic into an endemic. This is what I see in the near future.
When you talk about children, do you also mean babies?
And do you think the companies that developed and produced the vaccine will be able to develop a safe compound in no time?
Absolutely yes. They have already shown that they are up to this challenge. Obviously it will take time and security data. I remember that Sars (another coronavirus that spread between 2002 and 2003) suddenly disappeared and we don’t know why. I am not sure if we will be able to turn this pandemic into an endemic by vaccinating only the 5-12 year old group. Perhaps. Meanwhile, some newborns are protected by their mothers’ vaccinations and we want to understand how long the antibody protection lasts for them. We still have many questions to answer.
According to a study in Science published for over a year now, the waves of the pandemic will be constant and normality could arrive in 2024. What is your opinion
Until we understand why there are these waves we will not be able to tell. When we started with the vaccination campaign in December, those who asked me when the emergency would end, I answered in March. But we only had peace of mind for a few months. For this I have to be careful.
Is there anything you want to add?
This vaccine is something the world must be proud of. Vaccination plans have saved countless lives and that’s the most important thing. When we count the infections it is important, but when we count the lives saved it is much more so. Especially of the elderly and frail people, who are our parents or our grandparents. We are the ones who must protect them. I cannot accept the concept that we cannot contain deaths among older people.