image Photo: Flash90

Israel starts 2nd vaccine phase

Israel is continuing to maintain its momentum with the world’s fastest per capita coronavirus vaccination campaign.

The country’s bid to protect the most vulnerable citizens by next month and ease curbs on the economy has already shifted to administering booster shots for Israelis over the age of 60, those with health problems and medical personnel; who have been receiving their first injections of the Pfizer / BioNTech SE vaccine since 19 December. As the recommended 3 weeks have passed, this population is now beginning to get their follow-up, final doses.

“It changes everything,” the Director of the COVID-19 ward at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, Guy Choshen, told Reuters. “I’m really happy that I’m over that (and) looking forward for all this epidemic to be finished,” he said after being given his second inoculation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein welcomed yet another shipment of Pfizer anti-coronavirus vaccines at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv yesterday. The delivery was aboard a plane that arrived from Belgium, and contained 700,000-800,000 doses according to one official.

“This is a great day for the State of Israel with a huge shipment that has arrived in the framework of Operation Back to Life, a plane full of injections of encouragement,” declared Netanyahu, confirming that “I agreed with my friend, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla, that we would bring shipment after shipment and complete the vaccination of the over-16 population in Israel during the month of March.”

The Health Ministry said 19.5% of the population have been vaccinated and by mid-March roughly 5 million of the country’s 9 million citizens are expected to receive the vaccine.

The Israeli Prime Minister added that “over 72% of our people over 60 have been vaccinated” as of Sunday.

“This is a world record,” said Netanyahu, as he explained the roll-out strategy. “Next Sunday, an additional shipment will arrive and we will start vaccinating the next group; people aged 50-60 and up and thus we will proceed. The Health Minister and I agreed today to increase the pace of vaccinations to 170,000 a day,” he said.

Israel’s vaccination rate is by far the fastest compared to the rest of the world, according to the Our World in Data website, which is run by research organization Oxford Martin School.

He then praised “our amazing HMO medical teams and of course the nurses whose enthusiasm I can see, how they come to work with great energy together with the doctors, and MDA and Health Ministry personnel,” saying, “all of them together, they will get this done.”

After receiving his own second dose of the vaccine on Saturday, Netanyahu pledged “we will be able to open our economy quickly, the pubs, restaurants, gyms, schools, synagogues and theaters” and that the vaccination campaign will allow Israel to emerge from the pandemic in February.

Those who have been administered their final doses will be given “green passports” enabling full freedom of movement. Urging, “For this to happen, I need two things from you, citizens of Israel: Be vaccinated and obey the lockdown against mutations,” the Prime Minister underscored, “We are doing this together. We entered the coronavirus together and we will emerge from it first in the world and stronger than ever.”

Many of the world’s leaders have called to congratulate Netanyahu and receive assistance in order to emulate Israel’s successful vaccine drive.

According to a statement obtained by TV7 from the Prime Minister’s Media Advisor, Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed possible cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus with Austrian Chancellor  Sebastian Kurz.

This was followed by a conversation between Netanyahu with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen about the fight against the coronavirus also in light of the spread of the various mutations of the virus. According to the statement, “the Danish Prime Minister expressed great interest in the successful vaccines operation in Israel and sought to learn from the Israeli experience on the issue. The two agreed to deepen professional bilateral cooperation.”

The Israeli leader also received congratulation in a call from Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, and the two leaders “discussed possible bilateral cooperation on the issue.”

Netanyahu is running for re-election in March, in what will be the country’s 4th elections within 2 years. In parallel with the vaccination drive, his government has tightened the ongoing, third national lockdown to rein in a surge in coronavirus cases.