Fact Check: Fully Vaccinated Are NOT 80% Of Serious COVID Cases In Israel

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Fully Vaccinated Are NOT 80% Of Serious COVID Cases In Israel Highly Vaxxed

Are 80% of serious COVID-19 cases in Israel fully vaccinated people? No, that's not true: As of February 6, 2022, just over 49% of those severely ill from COVID in Israel were fully vaccinated, according to the nation's Ministry of Health. In Israel, being fully vaccinated means having the vaccines' early doses and a booster shot, too. The number grows to 61% if you add those who are "vaccinated without validity." That means people who have had their first two shots and are due for their boosters but haven't gotten them yet. Even combined, serious COVID cases among all those with at least two shots fell well short of the 80% mark in Israel.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by Israel National News on February 3, 2022, titled "'80% of serious COVID cases are fully vaccinated' says Ichilov hospital director." It opened:

Vaccine has 'no significance regarding severe illness,' says Prof. Yaakov Jerris.

Are Israeli hospitals really overloaded with unvaccinated COVID patients? According to Prof. Yaakov Jerris, director of Ichilov Hospital's coronavirus ward, the situation is completely opposite.

This is what the article looked like on Israel National News on February 7, 2022:

Israel vaxxed.png

(Source: Israel National News screenshot taken on Mon Feb 7 16:51:45 2022 UTC)

Yaakov Jerris is Jacob Giris is Gris Yaakov, depending on the translation

The Israel National News article identifies the physician as Professor Yaakov Jerris, who it says works at Ichilov hospital. The hospital's official name is Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center - Ichilov Hospital. Its website describes it as Israel's largest acute care facility. The doctor's name wasn't quite right either. The name Yaakov Jerris didn't appear in the hospital directory, but there was a similar name, Jacob Giris, when taking into consideration translation from Hebrew to English. Lead Stories reached out to Giris and in a February 8, 2022, email, he confirmed he is the Ichilov Hospital doctor who made the claim that 80% of Israel's serious COVID cases are people who were vaccinated. A January 26, 2022, Facebook post by the hospital identifies him as head of the internal medicine department. Facebook translated the post, which provides another transliterated version of his name. This is what it looked like on February 8, 2022:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Feb 8 15:55:57 2022 UTC)

In his email, Giris also added to what he's observed in the hospital's COVID ward:

Most of the hospitalized patients are vaccinated

The minority are not-vaccinated (but have severe COVID-19 too)

Both group have a constellation of myriad illnesses

The [omicron] mortality is about 1:1000 to 1: 2000 (compared to the delta variant ~1: 100)

Doesn't add up

In a February 7, 2022, Zoom interview from Galilee, Israel, with Lead Stories, Naor Bar-Zeev, deputy director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, called "patently false" the notion that 80% of serious COVID cases in Israel were among fully vaccinated people.

The claim seems to be going against what the Israeli Health Ministry is saying ... I haven't seen the data for the particular hospital, but ... severe disease remains mainly among the unvaccinated.

Raw numbers can be deceiving when comparisons aren't adjusted for multiple consequential variables. On February 6, 2022, there were 982 "severely ill" people hospitalized for COVID in Israel, according to the nation's Ministry of Health. Of that number 598 were either fully vaccinated or vaccinated without validity (61%), meaning the remaining 384 people (39%) were unvaccinated. The chart below shows the raw numbers of the vaccinated (top - dark green line), the vaccinated without validity (bottom - light green line) and unvaccinated (middle - blue line):

Raw severely.png

(Source: Israel Ministry of Defense screenshot taken on Mon Feb 7 23:14:39 2022 UTC)

Ratios matter more

As a nation reaches higher vaccination levels, COVID skeptics and anti-vaccine activists often point to the higher number of vaccinated people who are hospitalized with COVID as evidence the vaccines aren't doing their jobs. As of February 7, 2022, more than 67% of Israel's population was fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

The numbers of the "severely ill" look much different when you look at them relative to the size of the groups they come from. While there were a greater number of vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated on February 6, 2022, the pool of vaccinated people was much larger. For every 100,000 unvaccinated people, nearly 400 people were hospitalized. The figure dropped to nearly 136 for the vaccinated without validity (two shots but no booster). For the fully vaccinated, the number was just 35, making the risk of severe illness less than 10% of that for the unvaccinated, according to the ministry website. As a result, the vaccinated line flipped from the top to the bottom:


(Source: Israel Ministry of Defense screenshot taken on Mon Feb 7 23:05:34 2022 UTC)

While vaccines alone are not going to prevent infection, Bar-Zeev said their value is not debatable:

The total burden of disease has gone down. ... Having a vaccine is protective against death and severe disease. ... We have lots of evidence.

Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) is an Israeli media network, identifying with religious Zionism. It offers online articles and podcasts. It also livestreams radio and video, and publishes a weekly newspaper, B'Sheva.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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