Mining magnate and United Australia Party founder Clive Palmer says the overwhelming majority of people hospitalised with COVID-19 in Israel have been vaccinated, going on to suggest the vaccine doesn’t reduce rates of serious illness. But official figures show these claims are false.
In a video shared on Mr Palmer’s Facebook page, he says: “If you go to Israel today, 94 per cent of all people in hospital have had the double jab, so it doesn’t cut down on hospitalisation, it doesn’t stop you getting it, it doesn’t stop you passing it on” (video mark 10min 5secs).
A spokesman for Mr Palmer did not respond to AAP FactCheck when asked for the basis of his statement.
However, figures from the Israel Ministry of Health show the majority of hospitalised COVID-19 patients in the country were unvaccinated at the time of writing and this cohort is over-represented when adjusted for size. Multiple studies have found vaccines are effective at reducing the risk of serious illness due to the coronavirus.
Israel was one of the first countries to begin its COVID vaccine rollout after it reached an agreement with Pfizer to provide anonymous epidemiological data to the pharmaceutical company. This has meant it has been at the forefront of research into the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine.
Data from the country’s health ministry for October 26 show 77 per cent of COVID-19 patients hospitalised with severe illness were unvaccinated, with 187 unvaccinated patients and 55 vaccinated patients.
The vaccinated patients include 20 patients vaccinated more than six months ago or with only one dose (referred to below in this fact check as partially vaccinated) and 35 double vaccinated less than six months ago, or who have had a booster shot (referred to as fully vaccinated).
Hebrew University of Jerusalem infectious diseases associate professor Ran Nir-Paz told AAP FactCheck that the “vast majority” of those sick with COVID-19 in Israel were unvaccinated, while the proportion was even higher when weighted for population.
When the figures are broken down to show the number of hospital patients as a proportion of the population by vaccination status, it shows that on October 26 there were 0.7 fully vaccinated patients in hospital per 100,000 people, 2.2 partially vaccinated patients and six unvaccinated patients per 100,000 people.
The figures also show the vaccines were highly effective at preventing hospitalisation in those aged over 60. In this age group, 2.3 COVID-19 patients per 100,000 had been fully vaccinated, 11.5 patients had been partially vaccinated and 63 patients per 100,000 were unvaccinated.
A spokesperson from the Israel Ministry of Health told AAP FactCheck via email that Mr Palmer’s claim was “fake news”.
The ministry provided a weekly breakdown of hospitalisations since mid-August, which shows vaccinated and partially vaccinated patients made up the majority of new hospitalised cases for two weeks in August however since this time most cases have been unvaccinated.
In the week ending August 21, 42.1 per cent of new hospitalised cases were unvaccinated but this increased to 70.9 per cent by the week ending October 9 before falling back slightly.
Multiple sources have explained that the seemingly high number of vaccinated and partially vaccinated cases was due to the high vaccination coverage in the country, where the overwhelming majority of older high-risk patients have been vaccinated (see here, here, here).
This means that even though for a period the vaccinated made up a higher proportion of hospitalisations, because nearly 90 per cent of the population aged 60 to 89 had at least two vaccine doses they made up a far lower proportion of hospitalisations per 100,000 people.
Statistical data scientist Professor Jeffrey Morris conducted an analysis of Israeli hospitalisation figures in August and found the vaccine was between 81.1 per cent and 100 per cent effective at preventing severe disease once the results were stratified by age and weighted for vaccination rates.
Israel Institute of Technology biology associate professor Dvir Aran said vaccinated people have never made up 94 per cent of COVID-19 hospitalisations in the country.
“It’s false, of course,” Dr Aran said, adding that the period when the vaccinated made up a higher proportion of hospitalisations was due to the fact the vast majority of those in older age groups were vaccinated.
“Later in the wave, the vast majority (of hospitalisations) were unvaccinated,” he said.
Numerous studies have also found COVID-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing serious disease and hospitalisations.
A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal in September estimated COVID-19 vaccinations in Israel had averted 24,597 hospitalisations, 17,432 severe or critical hospitalisations and 5532 deaths.
“Without the national vaccination campaign, Israel probably would have had triple the number of hospitalisations and deaths compared with what actually occurred during its largest wave of the pandemic to date, and the health-care system might have become overwhelmed,” it said.
A study published in September by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found all of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the US were highly effective in preventing hospitalisation in real-world settings.
Among adults without immunocompromising conditions, the Moderna vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalisation by 93 per cent compared to being unvaccinated, while the Pfizer vaccine was 88 per cent effective and the Janssen vaccine was 71 per cent effective.
It is incorrect that 94 per cent of people hospitalised with COVID-19 in Israel are vaccinated; recent figures show a large majority of COVID-19 patients hospitalised with severe illness in the country were in fact unvaccinated. Data from the country shows the unvaccinated are far more likely to be hospitalised on a proportional basis, while international studies have also found COVID-19 vaccines significantly reduce rates of COVID-19 hospitalisation.
False – The claim is inaccurate.