According to a recent study conducted by Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University of the Negev in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Health, the fourth COVID-19 vaccination is effective in preventing the Omicron form from infecting the senior population in long-term care institutions. A task group established by the Israeli government to monitor the prevention and control of COVID-19 in the nation’s geriatric facilities, the Ministry of Health’s Senior Shield programme, involved almost 40,000 elderly Israelis living in institutions in the ground-breaking study. The study’s findings show that senior at-risk adults who receive the fourth dosage of the Pfizer vaccination have a 34% lower risk of getting the Omicron variant, a 64-67% lower risk of needing hospitalisation for COVID, and a 72% lower risk of dying from the virus.
Prof. Nimrod Maimon, until lately the head of the Ministry of Health’s Senior Shield programme, along with programme staff members Omri Bodenheimer, Boris Boltyansky, and Ami Mizrahi, led the study in partnership with Lea Gaon and Zafrira Hillel-Diamant of the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University. The prominent publication JAMA Internal Medicine published the study.
Prof. Khitam Muhsen from School of Public Health, Tel Aviv University says that his study contrasted 19,687 Senior Shield facility residents who obtained the first three doses of the Pfizer vaccine 4 months or more before the follow-up with 24,088 residents who received the fourth dosage of the vaccine, or the second booster shot. These people are occupants of the approximately 1,000 senior institutions, nursing homes, and assisted living that make up the Senior Shield system of the Ministry of Health. Due to the existence and life circumstances of the institutions, the reality that many residents require assistance with daily activities, and the previous medical conditions that many of the residents suffer from, this population is particularly susceptible to infection, morbidity, and mortality from the coronavirus.
There was no registered or readily accessible vaccine for the Omicron version, which experienced major alterations in the spike protein that enables the virus to bind to and pierce human cells when it swept across Israel during January and March of this year. Due to the fact that the current COVID-19 vaccinations attack the spike protein, there was considerable debate in Israel and throughout the rest of the world evaluating the efficiency of the current vaccinations against the Omicron strain in general and with regard to a second booster dose in particular. The second booster shot (the fourth dosage of the vaccine) for people 60 years of age and older was first authorised in Israel. The Senior Shield population dataset, which represented the first sizable cohort to receive the second booster, served as the data source for the current study.
Prof. Muhsen emphasises that the methodological issues that are common in observational epidemiological research on the efficacy of COVID vaccinations were successfully resolved in this current study, which was carried out on a nationwide scale. They kept track of the infections, hospitalizations, and mortality rates in these 2 groups throughout the Omicron wave and discovered that the individuals in the group that received the 4th vaccine contracted infections at a rate that was 34% lower than the control group, were hospitalised for mild-to-moderate illness at a rate that was 64% lower than the control group, and were hospitalised for severe illness at a rate that was 67% lower than the control group.
They also had a mortality rate that was 72% lower. These statistics are important since the Senior Shield population is one of the demographics that experiences severe coronavirus morbidity at a rate that is significantly greater than that of the overall population. The fourth vaccination dose, which provided cross-protection against the Omicron variety, is thought to have increased the level of neutralising antibodies. Their research shows the vaccine’s fourth dose to be a considerable advantage, indicating that the State of Israel’s vaccination programme was the right one. It was a prudent option that helped many people live longer to administer the fourth dose of vaccination to at-risk populations.
Dr. Muhsen continues that based on data of the senior population in care institutions, this work is novel and creative. This study’s average age was 80, as opposed to previous studies’ average age of 72, which was among relatively youthful people drawn from the general community. Additionally, it is exceedingly challenging to compare the morbidity levels of COVID test subjects or vaccine recipients to those of unvaccinated individuals or those who have received three doses of the vaccine because these individuals typically display positive health practises. They don’t know why some of the residents chose not to receive the fourth dose of the vaccination, but irrespective of whether or not they received the shot, both groups in the study completed normal and blind COVID tests in accordance with the same Senior Shield protocol. As a result, the healthy vaccinee effect had less of an impact on the study, and the findings are also applicable to other groups in Israel and other parts of the world.
The research demonstrates that offering booster shots and enhancing the level of antibodies through a vaccine based on the classic COVID-19 strain gives meaningful coverage against the emergence of severe disease even after infectious disease with new versions, including some that are very different from the original, like Omicron, claims Prof. Dani Cohen.
Nimrod Maimon, a professor, adds that the Senior Shield programme, run by the Ministry of Health, has the critical responsibility of safeguarding institutions for people who live outside the home. Because of the quick and efficient vaccination campaigns that were made possible by the project’s database of information about the facilities and their occupants, the number of coronavirus illnesses among these populations has been dramatically reduced. The Senior Shield program’s outstanding outcomes have garnered considerable international acclaim, and health officials from other nations have expressed a desire to learn from it.
According to Prof. Ron Dagan’s analysis of the study’s findings, immunizations and the application of well-organized systems are crucial in preventing major mortality and morbidity waves in groups at risk.