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Israel: Pfizer vaccine prevents 98.9 percent of COVID-19 deaths

The vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech is 98.8 percent effective at preventing deaths or hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the head of Israel's health ministry said.

The Times of Israel reported that the director-general of Israel's health ministry, Chezy Levy, said in a statement that data collected by his agency also found the vaccine to be 99.2 percent effective at preventing serious cases of the disease. Data analyzed by the agency included only patients who received both doses of Pfizer's vaccine, the newspaper noted.

“The vaccine dramatically reduces serious illness and death,” said Levy, according to The Times of Israel.

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“Thanks to Israel’s strong health system that has allowed us to vaccinate an unprecedented wide percentage of the population, and our epidemiological tracking facilities, we are the first country in the world that can show the effect of the vaccine in the real clinical world,” Levy added.

The health minister added in Saturday's statement that Israel would continue seeking to inoculate all adults over the age of 16 against the virus before proceeding with vaccines for the country's younger population.

Israel has won praise for the rapid pace of its program, which so far has led to roughly a third of the country's population receiving a vaccine. The country's government has also faced criticism, however, over availability of the vaccine in Palestinian-held territories, including the Gaza Strip, with Palestinian authorities calling on Israeli officials to increase the number of vaccines provided to the millions of Palestinians living in those areas.

The head of Gaza's health ministry said last week that the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines had begun arriving in the territory but stressed that the 2,000 provided fell far short of the number needed to vaccinate health care workers in the territory.