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In December 2020, Israel began a mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 administering the Pfizer BNT162b2 vaccine, which led to a sharp curtailing of the outbreak. After a period with almost no SARS-CoV-2 infections, a resurgent COVID-19 outbreak began in mid-June 2021. On July 30, 2021, a third (booster) dose of the vaccine was approved in Israel for individuals 60 years or older who had received the second dose at least five months previously. The booster vaccination campaign in Israel was gradually expanded to younger age groups who received a second dose five or more months earlier. In this talk, I will present Israel’s national database and the statistical methods we used to analyze it. I will discuss the quantification of the extent of two-dose waning immunity which motivated Israel’s decision to approve a booster dose. The main analysis of the booster-dose effectiveness for all age groups will then be presented.

The work is joint with Micha Mandel, Yinon Bar-On, Omri Bodenheimer, Laurence Freedman, Nir Kalkstein, Barak Mizrahi, Sharon Alroy-Preis, Nachman Ash, Amit Huppert, and Ron Milo.

Yair Goldberg is an associate professor of statistics in the Faculty of Data and Decision Sciences at the Technion. His lab uses statistical and machine learning tools to address theoretical questions and real-world problems. Recent papers have focused on both the protection against COVID-19 provided by the Pfizer vaccine and its waning immunity. In the past three years, he has been part of a research team advising Israel’s Ministry of Health on COVID-19 policymaking. Prof. Goldberg earned his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Department of Biostatistics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and was a faculty member at the University of Haifa, before joining the Technion faculty in 2018.