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Pfizer says COVID vaccine highly effective against Delta variant

JERUSALEM, June 24 (Reuters) - The Pfizer-BioNTech >PFE.N< vaccine is highly effective against the Delta variant of COVID-19, a Pfizer official in Israel said on Thursday.

First identified in India, Delta is becoming the globally dominant version of the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

“The data we have today, accumulating from research we are conducting at the lab and including data from those places where the Indian variant, Delta, has replaced the British variant as the common variant, point to our vaccine being very effective, around 90%, in preventing the coronavirus disease, COVID-19,” Alon Rappaport, Pfizer’s medical director in Israel, told local broadcaster Army Radio.

A spokesperson for Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment when asked to provide further details.

Israel, with one of the world’s most advanced vaccination campaigns largely based on the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, still lacks enough data to provide insight into vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant, said Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health at Israel’s Health Ministry.

“We are collecting the data now. We are only now seeing the first cases of the Delta variant in Israel - about 200 of those - so we will know more soon,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

An analysis by Public Health England (PHE), where the Delta variant is more widespread, found that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines provide more than 90% protection against hospitalization from the Delta variant.

In Israel, more than half the 9.3 million population has received both Pfizer shots and a steep drop in cases has prompted most economic restrictions to be lifted.

But confirmed cases have risen in the past few days and health authorities have urged parents to vaccinate their 12-to 15-year-olds, who were made eligible this month.

Alroy-Preis said around 65% of Israel’s population was protected against COVID-19, either by vaccination or by recovering from the disease, a figure she said was still far from providing “herd immunity.” (Writing by Maayan Lubell Editing by Mark Potter)

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