DES MOINES, IOWA — Israel is experiencing a new and troubling wave of infections, mostly from the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
New cases are spiking, even though most Israelis have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, or have already recovered from COVID.
“The Delta variant is surging globally,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Friday. “On the one hand the vaccines remain effective against the virus, and so we are making sure we have the necessary stocks. But vaccines alone are not enough.”
“We don’t know the precise extent to which the vaccine helps, but it is significantly less effective against Delta than against the previous strains,” Bennett added. “We all hope to see a slowdown in the spread of infection, but the truth of the matter is that there isn’t a slowdown right now – not in Israel and not around the world.”
The Israeli Health Ministry now reports that “the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 has dropped by some 30 percent to 64%, given the spread of the Delta variant,” according to the Times of Israel. “The data shows that during May, when the strain was less prevalent, the vaccine was 94.3% effective.”
“The Delta variant, which is believed to be twice as contagious as the original strain of COVID-19, is thought to be responsible for 90% of new cases in Israel over the past two weeks.”
It turns out, I am one of those Israelis that the prime minister is talking about.
Before flying from Tel Aviv to the U.S. three weeks ago to begin several months of speeches, media interviews, and business meetings – as well as attend the wedding of one of my sons, and have some vacation time with my family – I was given a PCR test at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
The test confirmed that I did not have COVID, and thus I was cleared to fly.
But somewhere here in the States, the situation changed.
When I landed here in the capital of Iowa on Wednesday afternoon, I thought I had picked up a slight cold.
Within a few hours, I thought I was suffering a terrible sinus infection – runny nose, aches, slight fever and an intense sinus headache.
By evening, I was in an urgent care facility.
Not only was I feeling sicker by the hour, but I was receiving texts from more than 20 members of my extended family and dear friends who had just been at my son’s wedding that they were increasingly ill and had just been diagnosed with COVID-19, including my 81-year-old mother and my 82-year-old mother-in-law.
That seemed impossible to me at first. Most of our family and friends have been vaccinated.
I was fully vaccinated in Israel several months ago.
But out of an abundance of caution, I informed the urgent care physician and nurses of my own symptoms and what was happening to my family and friends.
They conducted a PCR test and sent me back to my hotel room to temporarily quarantine until I could get my results.
On Thursday, I called Bob Vander Plaats – the organizer of The Family Leader Summit where I was scheduled to speak here in Des Moines. Apologizing profusely, I explained what was happening and that there was a very real chance I was not going to be able to attend.
Bob is the president of The Family Leader, an Evangelical Christian organization here in Iowa focused on advocating pro-life, pro-family, pro-growth, pro-Israel policies and legislation, and educating and mobilizing Christians to vote for local, state and federal candidates who will advance our Evangelical values and agenda.