A health expert said Monday that despite recent data showing the coronavirus vaccine is less effective in preventing the spread of the Delta variant, healthy people who had already received their two mandated shots should not be given a third booster jab.
According to Health Ministry data published Sunday, the vaccine's effectiveness against the strain dropped considerably from 94% to 64%.
Health officials have said that genetic sequencing showed the Delta strain was responsible for 90% of new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.
A similar drop was observed in effectiveness at preventing serious illness among those who received two doses of the vaccine, with 55% of the new infections found among the fully vaccinated population.
In the period between May 2 and June 5, there was a 98.2% protection from serious illness but after June 6 and until July 3, protection dropped to just 93%.
However, the vaccines were found to be still effective against serious illness that could lead to hospitalization.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Monday instructed the Health Ministry to launch two medical studies on the vaccines in order to provide decision-makers with crucial information on the future course of action regarding the pandemic.
The head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, will oversee the research.
"In light of the published results, we can still be happy with the fact the vaccine works," said Prof. Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory and vice dean of the life sciences faculty at Bar-Ilan University. "A 93% effectiveness in preventing serious illness and hospitalizations is the result we were waiting for."
Regarding the vaccine still being less effective in preventing mild illness, Prof. Cohen said that "many times we were told we are going to have to learn to live with the virus, and I think we are getting close to this scenario."
"We did all that could do, most of the population is vaccinated, and now we are going to need to live with it. I have no doubt that most of us will be exposed to the virus, but we will not be susceptible to serious illness. It will be just like any other seasonal ailments."
Asked whether there is an immunological significance to a third booster shot, Prof. Cohen said that there is none.
"The logic is that we administer [the booster shot] to the immunosuppressed and cancer patients. When it comes to health people - I do not think it is necessary yet," he said.
Prof. Cohen said that the right course of action now is to reintroduce certain restrictions.
"We have to reimpose light measures, such as on public gatherings," he said. "This Saturday I prayed at a synagogue with 100 people: to think that someone might be ill, alongside those who are unvaccinated - this is the issue. We need to keep the public safe."