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Transcript: Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis on “Face the Nation”, August 1, 2021


The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, Director of Israel’s Public Health Services, which aired Sunday, August 1, 2021 on “Face the Nation”.


JOHN DICKERSON: One country that started vaccinating its people very early on is Israel. This head start means the United States and other countries are monitoring Israel’s data on COVID and vaccines for clues as to what may happen in their future. Last week, Israelis started giving reminders to people over 60, becoming the first country in the world to do so after data showed decreased protection against covid among those who had been vaccinated eight months ago. To get a feel for what Israel is seeing, which may guide us on the next steps here in the United States, we now turn to Sharon Alroy-Preis, who is the director of Israel’s public health services. She joins us from Jerusalem. Hello doctor.

DIRECTOR OF ISRAELI PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES DR. SHARON ALROY-PREIS: Hello. Thank you for hosting me.

JOHN DICKERSON: Thank you for being with us. So Israel is seeing the same thing that we have in the States, a slight increase in cases because of the Delta variant. What is the biggest concern for you with the Delta variant?

DR. ALROY-PREIS: So there are two major concerns. The first is that the Delta variant is 50% more infectious than the previous one, the Alpha variant, which was 50% more infectious than the original variant. And we still have a third of our population that is not immune or has not been cured. We have a large population of children. And so it is obviously worrying. The other point is that we find that about 50% of those infected right now are vaccinated, fully vaccinated individuals. And so it is obviously worrying. Previously, we thought that vaccinated, fully vaccinated individuals were protected. We are now seeing – we are now seeing that the efficacy of the vaccine against the disease is about 40%. It is still high for serious illnesses. But we are seeing a decrease in protection, especially for people who were vaccinated earlier.

JOHN DICKERSON: So in that category of those where you see decreased protection, is it possible to indicate which part is decreased because they received the vaccine earlier? And what proportion of those who have been vaccinated, who are infected, who have, for lack of a better term, strong vaccine protection?

DR. ALROY-PREIS: That was the million dollar question for us. And we’ve been following this for several weeks now, trying to determine if this is a problem of older people who have a weaker immune system response, and it’s with a Delta variant – more contagious. We see it. Or it’s really waning immunity. And what we’ve seen over the past few weeks is actually evidence that immunity is waning. If we compare both people over 60 years old, but also 16 to 59 years old who were immunized early, therefore fully vaccinated at the end of January, we see an infection rate among them which is 90 percent. 000, double those who were fully immunized in March. We are therefore seeing a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccine against the disease for those who were vaccinated at an early stage. And we see it not only for people over the age of 60, but also for the youngest.

JOHN DICKERSON: And so that data is probably, obviously, what leads to the booster shots. Were you able to draw any conclusions from those who received a recall? Did it work as you expected?

DR. ALROY-PREIS: So we’ve just started the recall. I’ll – I have to explain that the decision to make a booster shot available is a combination of two. The first is really proof of what we think is waning immunity and the difference in the rate of infection between those who were vaccinated early and those who were vaccinated later, but also proof that we have increased the conditions. severe and critical hospitalizations with critical conditions among the population 60 years of age and over who are fully immune. And it’s with the fact that we’re seeing a lack of – the lack of response to the vaccine over time has caused us to suggest or allow people to get the vaccine a third time. So it’s – it’s not just that we see more diseases, but they come in severe and critical conditions.

JOHN DICKERSON: On the issue of mask warrants, Israel reinstated them. Do you see the same thing that seems to worry officials here in the United States about the ability of those who are vaccinated to spread? And that it was a discovery they had never seen here in the United States before.

DR. ALROY-PREIS: So we’re looking at that. We are trying to reintroduce what we call the green pass, which means that people can participate in events with a certificate that they have been vaccinated or collected or that they need to be tested. In order to continue this policy, we had to check whether vaccinated people can infect others. We know they can be infected. We see them. They now represent 50% of confirmed cases on a daily basis. But the question is whether they can infect others. And we’ve actually seen that 80% of vaccinated individuals who have become confirmed cases themselves, 80% of them have no confirmed contact, and 10% have only one contact that has been confirmed as a case because of their connection to this individual. Thus, their ability to infect others is 50% less than that of those who are not vaccinated.

JOHN DICKERSON: So just to be clear, those- you’ve found that there is a very small amount of those that have been vaccinated that can spread, but it’s quite small. The majority of them have been vaccinated …

DR. ALROY-PREIS: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: – you found it not spread?

DR. ALROY-PREIS: Exactly, exactly. There is spread among household contacts, but if household contacts are excluded from the equation, the-the-risk of a confirmed case being vaccinated to infect others is about 10% for – infect another individual and less than 10% infect more than one.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Awesome. Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, thank you very much for being with us. We really appreciate this.

DR. ALROY-PREIS: Of course. Thank you for hosting me.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we’ll be back right away.

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