Israel, which got off to a quick start in vaccinating its citizens, has now seen the benefits documented. Among 600,000 people who received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, symptomatic cases have dropped 94%, a study shows. And that group was 92% less likely to develop severe COVID-19 illness, the Wall Street Journal reports. "It is now unequivocal that Pfizer's vaccine against the coronavirus is incredibly effective in real life one week after the second dose, just as was found in the clinical study," one of the new study's authors said. It was conducted by the nation's largest health care provider, Clalit, and researchers from Harvard. Given the limits of the clinical trials, Clalit said this study was the first to demonstrate such a success rate among people 70 and older.
At the same time, Israel is dealing with an alarming turn. Two people who recently recovered from COVID-19 have been infected by the variant traced to South Africa. The government reported 14 more cases of that mutation, for a total of 44, and three reinfections in all. Health officials suspect the totals are undercounts, per the Washington Post. Pfizer and BioNTech have released lab data showing their vaccine works against the South Africa variant, as well as the one that first surfaced in the UK, though the results haven't been peer reviewed. The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine is less effective against the South Africa strain. An Israeli health official said the variant appears to be more transmissible than other coronavirus strains. The mutations have raised concerns that future variants could be more problematic. (Read more Pfizer stories.)