Fourth injection “partially” effective against Omicron: Israeli study

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Jerusalem (AFP) – The fourth doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19 are only “partially” effective for the Omicron variant of the virus, the authors of an Israeli trial said on Monday.

A team at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv began conducting a trial in December of fourth doses of coronavirus vaccines, inoculating 154 hospital staff with Pfizer vaccines and 120 other volunteers with doses of Moderna.

Preliminary results from the trial “showed that the vaccines are safe and have been shown to produce substantial antibodies, but are only partially effective in defending against the Omicron variant,” the hospital said in a statement.

Professor Gili Regev-Yochay, who is leading the study, said that although there was an increase in antibodies after a fourth dose was given, it still “offers only a partial defense against the virus” for people infected with the Omicron variant.

The vaccines were “extremely effective against earlier variants,” Regev-Yochay noted.

Israel was among the first countries to launch mass vaccination campaigns for its population.

It then began offering booster shots last summer and has since given the go-ahead for fourth shots for the elderly and vulnerable populations.

More than 537,000 Israelis have received a fourth dose of the vaccine, according to the latest Health Ministry figures.

More than 80% of adult residents of Israel have received two coronavirus vaccines and more than half have also received a booster.

Reduced quarantine

Meanwhile, Israel’s government said on Monday it was reducing the quarantine period for positive cases from seven to five days as a record number of infections threatens to overburden the economy.

“This decision will allow us to continue to protect public health on the one hand and to keep the economy going at the moment on the other hand, even if it is difficult,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a short video message sent by his office.

In the face of soaring infections fueled by the Omicron variant, Israel has become the latest country to reduce quarantine periods, after similar measures by France, Spain, Argentina, the United States and of Great Britain.

Israel closed its borders after discovering a case infected with the Omicron variant in November, but reopened in early January, despite a spike in infections.

In total, more than 1.7 million contaminations have been recorded since the start of the pandemic in Israel, including more than 8,300 deaths, according to official figures.

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