Israeli study finds Omicron COVID booster cuts hospitalization in 65+

Researchers from Israeli healthcare provider Clalit, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Sapir College have uncovered new details about the effectiveness of a recent COVID-19 booster.

Israeli getting the COVID vaccination at Meuhedet Health Maintenance Organization center at Jerusalem on August 11, 2021. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israeli getting the COVID vaccination at Meuhedet Health Maintenance Organization center at Jerusalem on August 11, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine booster developed by Pfizer Inc PFE.N and BioNTech SE 22UAy.DEsharply reduced hospitalizations among older patients, Israeli researchers said on Monday, in some of the first evidence of the jab's real-world effectiveness.

The study by researchers from healthcare provider Clalit, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Sapir College has not yet been peer-reviewed.

It found an 81% reduction in hospitalizations among people aged 65 and older who had received the booster against those who had previously received at least two COVID vaccinations, but not the Omicron-adapted shot.

Months of research later

The study was carried out from the end of September until mid-December and looked at 622,701 people aged 65 and over who were eligible for the bivalent booster. Among them, 85,314, or 14%, had received it.

"Hospitalization due to Covid-19 occurred in 6 bivalent recipients and 297 participants who did not" receive it, the study said. "Death due to Covid-19 occurred in 1 bivalent recipient and 73 participants who did not."

Israeli getting the COVID vaccination at Meuhedet Health Maintenance Organization center at Jerusalem on August 11, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Israeli getting the COVID vaccination at Meuhedet Health Maintenance Organization center at Jerusalem on August 11, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Though the 86% drop in mortality was statistically borderline because of the relatively low death rates in the country, it was nonetheless significant, the researchers said.

"Participants who received the bivalent vaccine had lower hospitalization and mortality rates due to Covid-19 than non-recipients up to 70 days after vaccination."

While the bivalent vaccine targets the original strain and its BA.4/BA.5 Omicron subvariant, scientists have been closely watching another Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, which has been rapidly spreading in the United States.