COVID-19 Questions and Answers
Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness
Recently we have marked one year since coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted our lives in an unprecedented manner. We have prayed for a vaccine from this virus that may cause severe illness and even death to those infected by it.
Over the last few months, a mutation of the virus named "the British variant" due to its origin in the United Kingdom has been running rampant in Israel. This variant is significantly more infectious and it mostly affects younger individuals, a phenomenon which was less common at the beginning of the outbreak.
For our great joy, at the end of 2020 vaccines by Pfizer Co. arrived in Israel, having received the approval from the American Food and Drug Administration, the FDA. Preliminary tests have shown that the vaccine provides protection of about 95% from this disease, including protection against the British variant, and Israel began a vaccination operation of an unprecedented scale.
The public's response to the call for vaccination is incredible and today over 5 million (!) Israelis have already been vaccinated. We see a significant decrease in infection rates and in hospitalization cases among the populations that have been vaccinated. Due to the fact that older adults have been the first to be vaccinated, fewer of them end up in the hospital. However, there is an increase in the number of younger people who have been infected with coronavirus and end up in the hospital.
Over time, more and more studies on the vaccine's effectiveness have been conducted and the results are excellent: The vaccine provides protection of up to 95% two weeks after the administration of the second dose. The conclusion is clear: Vaccination saves lives and prevents severe illness.
According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Health, two weeks after the administration of the second dose, the vaccine was observed to be about 97% effective in preventing death and severe illness.
Clalit HMO has conducted a study which included 1.2 vaccinated individuals. This study too shows how effective and important the vaccine is: 94% decrease in the number of symptomatic patients, 92% decrease in the number of patients in serious condition and an 87% decrease in the number of patients who require hospitalization.
Other studies conducted (for example by Maccabi HMO) show the same results – the vaccine provide near-perfect protection and is our only chance to go back to our pre-pandemic life that we so sorely miss.
Therefore, unequivocal recommendation by Israeli health experts and the Ministry of Health, as well as by the World Health Organization, is to allow anyone over 16 years old to be vaccinated, as soon as possible. There is general consensus among experts in the scientific and medical community – the vaccine is effective and with high efficacy.
The more people, both younger and older, will be vaccinated as soon as possible, the more lives we could save and faster the economy could reopen.
We know that there are those who spread false information on this matter. Have you encountered such a post? You can reply by posting a link to the page debunking fake news about the vaccine's efficacy.
Experts from the American Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, have approved the vaccine after it was carefully examined by external committees who have decisively concluded that the vaccine is safe. What is the basis for this conclusion?
- Over 220 million vaccine doses have already been administered around the world.
- The vaccine, which is injected into the muscle, disappears from the body within a short period of time.
It should be clarified: The vaccine has not only been tested on tens of thousands during the trials stage, but also on additional millions of people throughout the world. After more than 220 million people have been vaccinated around the world, we already know quite a bit about the vaccine's side effects. The vaccine has mild and transient side effects, mostly local (pain in the injection site, sometimes shivers, fever, fatigue or weakness etc.), and in any case most side effects pass rather quickly after vaccination. It should be noted that the technology on which the vaccine for coronavirus is based has already been used in vaccinations for over a decade.
Thanks to its great efficacy and high level of safety, the vaccine has also been approved for recovered coronavirus patients.
We know that there are those who spread false information about the safety of the vaccine. Have you encountered such a post? You are welcome to reply by posting a link to our articles which debunk these fake news:
The vaccine for coronavirus is divided into two doses, administered at least 21 days apart from each other.
The vaccine is injected directly into the arm muscle and disappears from the body after a short period time. Three weeks later the second vaccine is administered, and a week after receiving the second dose, the vaccinated individual may be given a vaccination certificate and a Green Pass.
While the vaccine indeed provides an excellent, near-perfect protection for coronavirus, it is still important to follow the rules due to the slight chance of being infected with coronavirus despite the vaccination. Therefore, the required rules of conduct for reducing the risk for infection and illness remain unchanged:
- Avoiding or minimizing unnecessary proximity between individuals, including preventing gatherings and enforcing a distance of at least 2 meters between individuals.
- Washing the hands frequently with water and soap.
Currently only individuals with known severe allergies to any of the vaccine's ingredients (rare) and children younger than 16 years old (except by exceptional approval) are forbidden from vaccinating.
Not necessarily. If 10 days have passed since testing positive, but the patient still experiences fever, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath (according to a medical examination), cough or any other respiratory symptom, vomiting or diarrhea – he or she will not be considered to have recovered. However, ongoing loss of taste or smell and ongoing cough are not a hindrance to have a certificate of recovery.
So far, a number of variants (different versions) of the virus have been detected, most prominently the British and South African variants, whose spread rate is especially rapid. It is likely that additional variants will be discovered in the future. However, experts predict that thanks to the vaccine's innovative technology, it would be possible to quickly develop an effective vaccine for these variants as well. The Ministry of Health constantly follows developments in this area.
Complications and long-term health effects, including heart problems and neurological disorders have been observed in those who were infected with coronavirus, including younger people – especially those who have been infected with the British variant. Teenagers can be infected and infect others and we wish to eradicate the disease. Therefore, anyone who is able and eligible to be vaccinated should be vaccinated, first and foremost in order to protect this person and those around them and to allow for the resumption of normal daily living activities.
No. It is not possible to become sick from the vaccine because the vaccine does not contain coronavirus or any part thereof.
Just like with any other vaccine, it is important to contact your doctor if you develop any side effects around the time of vaccination.
You can report adverse events (potential side effects) by submitting an online form:
On 21.1.2021, the Israel Association of Allergy and Clinical Immunology published a position paper, according to which, there were only few cases of severe allergic reactions and not a single death has been reported.
mRNA breaks down after a few hours. The vaccine cannot interact our DNA since the mRNA cannot enter the nucleus of the cell, where our genetic material (DNA) is kept.
Have you encountered any publication stating otherwise? You can reply by posting a link to our article which debunks fake news on this matter.
Usually these are anonymous publications unclaimed by any official authority. It is important to know that these publications are for the most part false, and some provide half-truths (such as exaggerated descriptions of common side effects) in order to spread panic. Some of these publications originate with sects that oppose any form of medication or vaccination. Some of these sects also have missionary agencies. You may refer all of your doubts or concerns about any publication to the Ministry of Health's call center, the hotlines of the HMOs or your trusted general practitioner. It should be noted that renowned Israeli thinkers from all walks of life and from all religious groups have carefully examined the data, have been briefed by medical experts, have asked them questions and have expressed their support of the vaccine.
Coronavirus – Fake news website debunks commonly raised claims against the vaccine.
The Benefits of Vaccination
Vaccination confers upon the vaccinated individuals quite a few benefits which will be detailed below, the most significant among them being:
- Protecting those around us and those dearest to us
- Exemption from the isolation requirement!
Besides, a wide variety of options are available, in accordance with the Green Pass policy, for those who have been vaccinated: Participating in cultural and sporting events, engaging in physical activity in gyms and pools, being able to enjoy hotel hospitality and more.
So, how does it happen? It's all thanks to the Green Pass that you can apply for one week after receiving the second vaccine dose. Many businesses and various events are required to follow the Green Pass requirements, and those who are neither vaccinated nor recovered may not participate in many of the activities mentioned above. This is the only way that we could eradicate the pandemic which has already afflicted more than 700 thousand Israelis.
The Green Pass is a means for allowing the safe reopening of various areas of daily living activities that have been closed so far. A number of such areas of daily living activities such as hotels, swimming pools, gyms, cultural and sporting events and more have just been opened for Green Pass holders only.
Who may enter a venue operating under the Green Pass requirements?
- People who have received both vaccine doses and at least a week has passed since the administration of the second dose (vaccination certificate holders)
- Recovered coronavirus patients, upon presenting a certificate of recovery.
So, how can I get the Green Pass?
It is already possible to apply for the Green Pass through one of the three options below:
- Through the Traffic Light application
- Through the Ministry of Health's website
- Through the Ministry of Health's call center at *5400.
The Green Pass is given by the Traffic Light application. It is simple and quick and requires a short identification process. The application can be downloaded from the App stores. After installing the application and selecting "Apply for a Green Pass" option, you can begin the issuing process. At the end of the process the user will receive an animated Green Pass screen, attesting to the completion of the process and the issuing of the Green Pass.
Having a hard time with the application? Not to worry. You can also get the Green Pass through the Ministry of Health's website, or call the Ministry's calling center at *5400 and the Pass will be sent to you through your means of choice from several available means.
Vaccination certificate holders are exempt from the isolation requirement. Holders of recovery certificates are also exempt from the isolation requirement. Nevertheless, both vaccinated and recovered individuals are required to continue following the masking and social distancing practices (keeping a distance of 2 meters from other people).
Pregnancy, Childbirth and Children
Pregnant women are permitted and even encouraged to get vaccinated. According to experts from the Ministry of Health who have examined test results of mothers and newborns who have been vaccinated during pregnancy, there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine may cause any harm to the fetus at any stage of the pregnancy. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health stresses that there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccine contains any biological mechanism which can cause any harm to the pregnancy or to the fetus. Therefore, there is no hindrance to vaccination at all stages of the pregnancy.
Although there is no hindrance to vaccination at all stages if the pregnancy, since the first trimester is the most vulnerable, it is recommended to wait until the second trimester before vaccinating, in order to prevent any suspicion of link, however incidental, between the vaccine and occurrences which are characteristic of the first trimester.
Detailed information from the National Council of Health and the Israeli Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Certainly. It is permitted and even recommended. According to experts from the Ministry of Health, the vaccine is not transmitted by breastfeeding from the nursing mother to her baby. For the sake of the nursing mother's health and the health of the other members of her household – it is important to be vaccinated.
So far, the vaccine has not been approved for children (younger than 16 years old). However, due to increased coronavirus infection rates among children, Pfizer and Moderna, the vaccine manufacturers, are currently conducting experiments abroad for vaccinating children aged 12 to 16. So far the results are satisfactory and the vaccine will apparently be approved for children as well.
It is important to protect children from infection: More and more children reach extreme scenarios of severe illness. In light of the fact that children are usually asymptomatic, they may infect others and make it more difficult to break the chain of infection. In many cases children have unwittingly infected older adults and individuals from high-risk populations.
The British variant has led to a leap in the number of children who became infected with coronavirus and in some hospitals task-specific pediatric coronavirus wards have been opened.
Vaccine Technology (mRNA)
Vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA) are a method for protecting against infectious diseases. Traditional vaccines induce an immune reaction by inserting a dead or weakened agent into the body. Vaccines based on messenger RNA teach the body's cells how to synthesize a protein – or a part thereof – that induces an immune reaction in the body. During this reaction, antibodies are created, which protect us if we are exposed to the virus. Shortly after (hours to days), the body breaks down the mRNA.
The vaccine give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein". The spike protein is found on the surface of the coronavirus. When this vaccine is injected into a muscle, the instructions are transmitted into cells that start to make the protein piece.
Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. The immune system recognizes that this protein does not belong to the body and begins making antibodies, just like what happens in a natural infection against COVID-19. At the end of the process, the body has learnt how to protect against future infection. The benefit of the vaccine is that those vaccinated are protected against COVID-19 and its complications.
Individuals with no status may be vaccinated, provided that they can provide proof that they have been in Israel for over six months (individuals aged 50 and older are not required to provide proof for the duration of their stay in Israel). Palestinian workers who work in Israel and in the settlements with a valid work permit have been vaccinated since 7.3.2021.