Israel, which has been touted as one of the world’s vaccination success stories due to its sweeping inoculation campaign against COVID-19, has identified eight cases of the so-called “Indian” variant of the novel coronavirus, just days after the country ended its outdoors mask mandate.
Significantly, authorities said they believed the Pfizer vaccine—which was administered to most of Israel’s population—was effective against the variant, albeit at a reduced efficacy level.
"The impression is that the Pfizer vaccine has efficacy against it, albeit a reduced efficacy," the Israel’s health ministry director-general, Hezi Levy, told Kan public radio, saying the number of cases of the variant in Israel now stood at eight.
Israel has already vaccinated 81 per cent of its 9.3 million population, all residents above the age of 16.
Indian authorities had in January detected a “double mutant” variant of the virus, with changes to the SARS-nCov-2 virus spike protein similar to those in both UK and South Africa at once. While the UK variant was known to be more infectious, the South African variant was believed to be deadlier—and triggered reduced efficacy rates in existing vaccines.
AstraZeneca had announced plans to develop a modification to its vaccine to better tackle the threat of new variants, aiming to prepare this by the end of the year. Pfizer, meanwhile, has said those who had already taken its vaccine may require a third dose within 6-12 months, as their immunity to the virus starts to wane.
The Indian variant has been identified in both the UK and in Ireland.