JERUSALEM, Israel - Medical researchers are closely watching Israel after it became the first country to use Pfizer's vaccine booster for COVID-19.
“We're seeing profound effectiveness, efficacy of the vaccines. It's working, it's safe, and it's the way to defeat this virus,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Although more than 60% of Israelis are fully vaccinated, this latest surge could lead to a fourth lockdown during the upcoming Jewish holidays.
Seven Israeli hospitals are on strike and hospital beds are loading up with COVID patients, but medical experts say there’s still hope.
“The level of severe COVID hospitalizations and deaths is much lower in people who are vaccinated,” Dr. Yair Lewis, a former member of Israel’s national coronavirus response team, told CBN News.
Lewis believes Israel will experience future COVID outbreaks, but the number of serious cases will gradually decrease.
“I think we are going to get to the point where this is a disease that occurs, but the severe outcomes are not something that we will regularly see like we saw when the coronavirus first broke out,” he said.
Lewis believes that while the vaccine is important, treatments for patients who have contracted the disease are crucial.
“Obviously, developing therapeutics to treat people who have been infected is something that we should be working on in order to actively protect people who have been infected and treat them,” he explained.
Hebrew University Prof. Yaakov Nahmias and his team are at the forefront of testing a promising treatment for COVID.
CBN News met him last year after his team identified that Fenofibrate, a drug on the market since 1975, could possibly fight the disease. Clinical trials now show it’s working.
“We looked at 15 severe COVID-19 patients. These were patients that had to have respiratory support, so they had to have oxygen. And in all of these patients, what we saw is that inflammation, essentially pneumonia, disappeared in just the first 48 hours and the immune system was significantly suppressed,” he said.
COVID-19 creates an overreaction of the immune system known as a “Cytokine Storm.” Instead of fighting the lung infection, it destroys the lung tissue itself.
Nahmias believes that by using Fenofibrate, “93% compared to about 25% in the general population could go home without oxygen support in less than a week.”
Nahmias says two clinical studies on four continents are also using the drug for treatment.
“One of the things that makes us very excited about Fenofibrate is that it has an exceptional safety record…the second thing is that it’s incredibly cheap,” Nahmias explained. “This means that we can start treating people not only in the West, not only in the United States, Europe and Israel, but also in India, South America, Africa, everywhere around the globe.”
At Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, Professor Nadir Arber, continues work on an experimental Israeli drug called EXO-CD24.
Earlier this year, he told CBN News that after inhaling the drug, thirty patients in serious condition recovered from COVID, most of them in less than a week.
A clinical trial in several Greek hospitals has shown similar results on 90 patients, with about 80 leaving the hospital within five days.
Arber noted that several countries, from Mongolia to Europe, will be part of a phase three trial.
In the near future, Arber believes it will be used as an “at home therapy” and potentially a platform for treating other similar ailments.
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