Coronavirus Israel News, January 22, 2021: Israel's Coronavirus Vaccination Strategy
Israel is way ahead of other countries when it comes to corona vaccinations. But does this also reduce the infection rate? Initial studies provide information.
Israel continues to lead the global vaccination statistics: According to the online portal "Our World in Data" at Oxford University, every fifth Israeli had received at least the first vaccination against the coronavirus by Friday. Germany, on the other hand, is far behind with one percent. When it comes to injections and when it comes to research, Israel’s speed is unmatched: The country’s two largest health insurance companies, Clalit and Maccabi, have now reported initial data on the effectiveness of the vaccination. The results give cause for cautious optimism.
What do the studies say about the vaccine's effects?
Clalit compared the proportion of positive corona tests among 200,000 vaccinated Israelis over the age of 60 with the positive test rate among 200,000 unvaccinated in the same age group.
After two weeks, the infection rate among those vaccinated decreased by 33 percent compared to those who had not received the vaccination - even though the vaccinated participants only received the first dose of the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine.
Its 95 percent effect, which the manufacturer promises, should only develop after the second dose. However, Clalit's medical professor Ran Balicer emphasized that the results “do not suggest full protection against infection.”
The study's preliminary results by the Maccabi health insurance company and 400,000 participants turned out to be somewhat better: According to this, the infection rate among those vaccinated falls by 60 percent after two weeks. So far, it was unclear whether the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine only works against the virus's symptoms or protects against infection. The studies suggest the latter.
Who can be vaccinated?
Since Wednesday, all citizens over 50 years of age have been allowed to be vaccinated, as can all teachers. In February, the age limit will drop to 40 years, and by the end of March, almost all adults should have been immunized. Pregnant women and children, and adolescents under 16 years of age, are excluded from the vaccination until further notice.
Where does the vaccine come from?
Israel secured vaccines from the manufacturers Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna faster and larger than many other countries. Israel's government does not release data, but estimates indicate that the country received four to five million doses of the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine before the turn of the year.
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It also expects several million cans of Moderna by March. Israel is said to have paid significantly more for the Biontech vaccine than the US and Europe. The government is also silent on this.
Some experts believe that manufacturers are interested in preferring Israel: because the country is small, has a digital health system and first-class researchers, it is well suited as a “pilot project.” The data collected there provide insights into the vaccines - and could spur other potential customers on.
Who organizes the vaccinations?
The four major health insurance companies in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and local authorities. The health insurance companies keep digital, centralized medical records for all patients. In this way, they can easily identify all those entitled to vaccinate and invite them by SMS, email, or phone call.
Israelis can book their vaccination appointments online and automatically receive the appointment for the follow-up vaccination. The health insurance companies operate around 350 vaccination stations across the country. They use their own medical centers and clinics and soccer stadiums, parking lots, community centers, and sports halls. Mobile vaccination vehicles also tour remote villages.
How does the state encourage citizens?
Before the campaign began, just under two-thirds of Israelis had said they wanted to be vaccinated in surveys. But the government started a media campaign under the motto "Tanu Kater," "give a shoulder." The government is also cracking down on anti-vaccination propaganda:
She persuaded Facebook to disable four Hebrew-speaking groups that were spreading false news about the vaccination. Anyone who has had their second vaccination receives a so-called “green pass,” which exempts the wearer from corona-related requirements, such as the obligation to quarantine after traveling abroad.
The campaign has so far been less successful with the Arab minority, who make up 20 percent of the population. Some experts blame Arabic-language conspiracy theories on social networks for this. Others criticize that there are too few vaccination stations in Arab cities. Against this, some vaccination centers in Arab cities invite Jewish Israelis to vaccinate because not enough candidates have registered there.
How does the campaign affect the general health situation?
Not noticeable yet: The number of new infections every day has recently risen to almost 10,000 in Israel - never higher than and despite a lockdown lasting several weeks. Some experts suspect that the British mutation of the virus is to blame for the increase; others see the main problem in the lax enforcement of exit and contact restrictions.
What is the political impact of the campaign?
Presumably in favor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made the vaccination a top priority. Last week, he announced that he had phoned his “friend,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, “17 times”. Thanks to the "agreement I made with Pfizer," he promised, Israel will be the first country in the world to break free from the shackles of the virus.
The next general election will take place in Israel on March 23, the fourth in two years. Netanyahu appears to be using the vaccination campaign as a campaign after its popularity ratings have dropped significantly over the past year - not least under the impression of often unpredictable governance.
According to surveys, public trust in the state is lower than it has been for a long time. Netanyahu has to hope that voters will have short memories.
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