For the first time since the pandemic began, Israel now says that more than a quarter of the most severe cases of Covid-19, which require hospitalization, are in patients under the age of 60.
The Israeli Ministry of Health directly blames a new strain that was first discovered in the UK last month.
“This is because the new British alternative is more contagious, especially among young people and children,” explained Dr. Itamar Grotto, Assistant Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Health.
The news that Israeli hospitals now had a record number of serious Covid cases came within 24 hours of Israel starting the “second dose” campaign. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first to get the second shot yesterday.
The global health community has praised Israel for moving so quickly to vaccination. So far, nearly 2 million Israelis have taken the first shot, out of about 9 million people. Israel has a highly centralized health system, where everyone must register in a digital system – making it easier for the Ministry of Health to organize a vaccine campaign throughout the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a second dose of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, near the coastal city of Tel Aviv, on January 9, 2021.
Mary Ulster | Agence France-Presse | Getty Images
Despite the success in vaccines, Israel is currently in its third countrywide lockdown due to the spread of the virus. Without underestimating the concern about the increasing percentage of young people being treated in hospitals for serious injuries, Grotto, an epidemiologist, notes that nearly 70% of Israelis over the age of 60 have now received the first vaccine that provides them some immunity.
CNBC contributor and former Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb has been looking at trends in Israel and Europe since the pandemic began a year ago, and using them as a potential model for what could happen in the United States, including the relatively newly discovered British variant.
“If we can spread the vaccine, we can probably avoid it,” Gottlieb said, referring to the more dangerous and fastest-spreading strain.
Gottlieb said he believed the recent and alarming rise in cases in the United States was more related to travel and holiday gatherings, “but the bottom line is that we don’t have a surveillance system good enough to know for sure.”
He said that in the UK the variable officially accounts for only 0.2% of US cases. Gottlieb also warned that US health officials are not yet looking as carefully as they should to the dangerous mounting pressure that is wreaking havoc on South Africa’s ailing health system.