Israel has always been the most important country to judge the mRNA Covid vaccines.


It has nearly total adult vaccine coverage. Efforts to blame “the unvaccinated” for whatever is happening won’t hold. Israel has good data – far more complete and up-to-date than American figures. And it vaccinates quickly, so whatever impact the vaccines are having rolls through the population (and the data) quickly.

But most of all, Israel matters because Israel was first. It mass vaccinated with Pfizer’s mRNA first and it boosted first. And human biology is the same everywhere.

So what happens in Israel happens in all the other mRNA countries eventually. As the chief scientific officer of Pfizer said in September, Israel is a “sort of laboratory” for the vaccines.

Here’s how the Israeli experiment is going.

This chart tracks serious Covid cases (basically intensive care hospitalizations) in Israel from early 2020, the beginning of the epidemic:

The chart shows five distinct Covid spikes. The first two are in 2020, in the pre-vaccine era.

The third spike, the middle one, is the largest so far. It took place from December 2020 through February 2021, just as mass vaccinations of the elderly began.

As I wrote at the time on Twitter, that link probably wasn’t a coincidence. Countries near Israel that were not vaccinating didn’t have spikes as severe. Britain, the second major country to start mass vaccinations, did. Later work has shown a marked rise in infections just after the first mRNA dose, probably because the vaccine temporarily reduces overall immunity to infection.

But even a couple really bad weeks is a small price to pay for long-run success. What happened as the vaccination campaign progressed?

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