First Israeli Omicron COVID case: ‘I am still weak’

Dr. Elad Maor said he believes that the vaccine protected him from developing serious infection.

 Israel's first Omicron case: Dr. Elad Maor (photo credit: SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER AT TEL HASHOMER)
Israel's first Omicron case: Dr. Elad Maor
(photo credit: SHEBA MEDICAL CENTER AT TEL HASHOMER)

Ten days after Dr. Elad Maor was diagnosed as the country’s first Omicron variant COVID-19 patient, the cardiologist returned to work at Sheba Medical Center.

“I am still weak,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday from one of the hospital’s bustling cafeterias on his first day back.

Maor tested positive for COVID-19 on November 28 and was diagnosed as having the variant a few days later. He was fully vaccinated with three shots of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Two other people had been infected with the variant in Israel before Maor but they were not Israeli citizens. 

The variant hit Maor harder than he expected, causing a fever for 48 hours and extreme fatigue for 72 hours. He said he had muscle aches, too. And even now, Maor said he is not feeling back to himself.

Worst of all, however, was the quarantine.

 Israel's first Omicron case: Dr. Elad Maor in London where he says he caught the variant. (credit: COURTESY DR. ELAD MAOR) Israel's first Omicron case: Dr. Elad Maor in London where he says he caught the variant. (credit: COURTESY DR. ELAD MAOR)

“Home isolation is really tough,” he said. “I did not want to get my family infected.”

Maor caught the variant in London, which he said was easily confirmed because of the number of PCR tests he took around his trip to the London Valves cardiology conference.

“I did a PCR test when I landed in London, and then one 72 hours prior to flying back to Israel, and then another one when I landed in Tel Aviv. All of the tests were negative,” he said. “So, I did not bring the virus with me to London. I brought it back with me from London.

“I was the first Israeli with a verified case of Omicron,” he continued. “Maybe there were people before me, but none of them were verified Israelis.”

How did he catch COVID if he was vaccinated?

“The vaccine does not give you full protection,” Maor explained. “It protects you from severe disease and death, but not from getting the virus.”

The vaccine is somewhere between 40% and 80% effective at warding off infection, according to different studies. Maor said that while he was abroad, he used the London underground – known as the Tube – on a daily basis and many of the passengers were not wearing masks.

“Some of them were probably unvaccinated,” he said, adding that he also might have caught the variant at the conference or on the airplane.

Strikingly, Maor spread the virus to only one other person: a fellow cardiologist who drove with him unmasked to a conference in Caesarea. The drive was an hour and a half. His colleague was also fully jabbed.

He said he believes he did not infect others, even his family members, because he is fully vaccinated, and because he generally wears a mask in public and is still as vigilant as possible about social distancing.

Maor’s wife and all three of their children ages 13 to 17 are vaccinated, too. The oldest has even had a third shot. Nonetheless, he said that he stayed in a room by himself so as neither to infect them nor to send them into 10 days of isolation, too.

He said that given the symptoms he had, he expects he could have developed a more severe disease if he was not inoculated.

“People should go and get the vaccine,” Maor concluded.