According to new Israeli research, the fourth shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech was key in helping save lives of the older population in the country during the Omicron wave. It also gives rise to the question as to how many lives have been lost because of the slow adoption of the fourth dose all over the world. As per Sapir College and Clalit Health Services, people in Israel who decided to go for the fourth-shot in order to top up their triple-vaccine protection saw their chances of dying decline by almost 78%. This figure was calculated by checking the death rates of Israelis over a 40-day period during the fifth wave. These people were over the age of 60 and had gotten their third shot four months earlier.
For every five people who died and did not get the fourth shot, there was only one death amongst people who opted for it. The Israeli study has been published online, but has not been peer-reviewed as yet. It has come three months after Israel took the decision to give second booster shots to the elderly population, medical staff and at-risk individuals. As for other countries, they have either not begun giving the second booster as yet, such as the United States, which is expected to start soon.
Likewise, those like the UK have also started the campaign recently. Until three weeks ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) had been against third and fourth booster shots, but it reversed its position and said they are required. This new Israeli study gives an optimistic view of the impact of the fourth dose than another recent study that was conducted by the largest hospital in Israel. That particular study had been focused on the impact of the fourth dose on younger people and had considered illness and infection, rather than death.
Experts had been awaiting for research that focused on the elderly and took the death rates into account. This is what the Clalit research does and it took anonymized data of 563,465 people from Israel who are aged 60 and above. 58% of these people had gotten the second booster shot. Mortality data was taken into account and adjustments were also made for preexisting illnesses and demographic factors. Scientists discovered that mortality declined drastically in those who decided to re-boost. The authors of the study wrote that the second booster significantly reduced the COVID-19 mortality.
Dr. Ronen Arbel, the lead author, talked about the second booster policy globally. The Sapir College academic said that the fourth dose was controversial because there were concerns about the global vaccine inequity and lack of evidence regarding the second booster’s effectiveness. But, this study could provide strong evidence about the life-saving impact of the fourth dose. Arbel refused to speculate on how many deaths could have been prevented during the Omicron wave with the second booster. However, he did say that ‘hundreds of lives’ could have been saved in Israel if the elderly, who had chosen not to get the fourth shot, had decided otherwise.