Israel has been in the news lately for an increase in COVID infections and hospitalizations, despite being one of the countries with the highest vaccination rates in its adult population and pioneers in administering booster doses. 

Statistics compiled by the Oxford University-backed Our World in Data research team show that there were a record 1,892 Covid cases per million people in Israel on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

Although the high rate of positives may be due to increased testing on Sept. 1, the country has reported some of the highest infection rates in the world since mid-August, as reported by the Daily Mail.

According to the Science portal, as of Aug. 15, 514 Israelis were hospitalized with severe or critical COVID-19, a 31% increase from just 4 days earlier. Of the 514, 59% were fully vaccinated. Of those vaccinated, 87% were 60 years of age or older. 

“There are so many breakthrough infections that they dominate and most of the hospitalized patients are actually vaccinated,” says Uri Shalit, a bioinformatician at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) who is also a consultant to the government on COVID-19. “Vaccines work, but not well enough,” he added.

On its travel warning list, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has placed Israel on its travel watch list. (CDC) has placed Israel at level 4, or high alert, asking U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the destination.

Low vaccine effectiveness

Data from the UK, US, and Israel show that vaccine effectiveness has begun to decline, especially against the Delta variant, which is considered highly contagious. 

Despite these data, the UK is ready to implement booster shots, while Israel has already begun administering these boosters to those over 60, Canada is making them available to those considered “high risk” and the U.S. has unveiled plans to administer the booster vaccine to as many as possible.

Israel’s Kann News Channel 11 aired on August 2 an analysis of the previous day’s positive cases and hospitalizations in the over-60 population, considered the most vulnerable.

Of the 279 cases of people who tested positive for the CCP virus (or COVID-19), 250 were fully vaccinated people, 29 were from unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people, probably referring to having received one dose only.

“Here’s what it looks like in percentages: 90 percent of the cases were fully vaccinated, and 10 percent were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated,” the reporter clarified.

Health authorities have repeatedly stated that vaccines are safe and that adverse effects are extremely ‘unusual’, so they continue to recommend mass vaccination to curb COVID outbreaks. Several countries are pushing the implementation of health passports, so that people can move around freely and attend daily activities.