Coronavirus vaccine (illustrative)
Coronavirus vaccine (illustrative) Photo by Flash90

Professor Ran Balicer, Chairman of Israel's National COVID-19 National Experts Advisory Team, on Monday morning said that in his estimation, at this time the best defense against the new COVID-19 variant is the vaccine.

In an interview with Galei Tzahal, Prof. Balicer, who also serves as Chief Innovation Officer at Clalit Health Services and Founding Director at Clalit's Research Institute, explained: "The most reasonable working assumption is that the vaccine is effective against severe illness from Omicron. It could be that we'll see a drop in efficacy when it comes to infections, but that will not change the fact that it is the most effective tool we have."

According to him, "when we are in the initial stages of an outbreak, sometimes it is a false alarm, and sometimes it is a real problem. When the Delta variant began to spread, we didn't know if the vaccine would be effective against it - there's a not-insignificant chance that this time, things will be similar."

"In Israel, they conducted a retrospective investigation in order to see if there was evidence of the new strain in recent weeks, and they did not find. This means that right now, there is no widescale spread that we don't know about - and we need to continue our efforts to locate the verified cases."

On Saturday, Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster (Blue and White) said the IDF's Home Front Command is working to locate 800 Israelis who may have been exposed to the new variant.

Meanwhile, Israel has closed its doors to tourists from all countries, and those Israelis arriving from red countries are quarantine in government-run hotels until they test negative, after which they are sent to home quarantine.

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