59% decrease in new COVID cases over age 60 - new data

Deputy A-G says legislation needed to require teachers to take vaccines.

Medical personnel at Hadassah-University Medical Center is inoculated (photo credit: HADASSAH SPOKESPERSON)
Medical personnel at Hadassah-University Medical Center is inoculated
(photo credit: HADASSAH SPOKESPERSON)
The vaccination campaign appears to be working, according to data released on Thursday by Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Segal has been tracking virus trends since the start of the pandemic. He wrote on Twitter that since the peak of morbidity in mid-January, there has been a 38% decrease in the number of patients in serious condition and a 40% decrease in the number of deaths among the population over the age of 60.
He also said there are 58% fewer new older patients, and 44% fewer hospitalizations in general.
“About three weeks ago, they started receiving their second vaccine dose,” Segal wrote.
The Health Ministry showed that 86% of people over age 60 had been vaccinated as of Thursday morning.
His message came on the same day that the country began opening up some schools, and while the government and the Health Ministry continued debating whether and what restrictions or sanctions it might impose on those who are unwilling to get the jab.
This is something that the Health Ministry has particularly been pushing with teachers.
The deputy attorney-general sent a letter on Thursday stating that requiring teachers to vaccinate would require legislation. Until then, he wrote, it has been ruled that it is prohibited to require teaching staff to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
Any legislation, Raz Nazeri  wrote, would need to be implemented with the aim of balancing between public health and restoring the education system and the rights of teachers as employees and individuals.  
So far, the government has distributed six million vaccines to 3.7 million people, among them two million who already received their second dose more than a week ago and qualified for a vaccination certificate.
A vaccination certificate, not to be confused with a “green passport,” exempts these individuals from isolation if they come in contact with an infected person or return from abroad.
The Health Ministry had hoped to see 200,000 people inoculated per day, but numbers have started to wane, especially among the young population that recently became eligible to vaccinate.
Only 140,000 people were inoculated on Wednesday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday morning.
“As I said yesterday, we will incentivize the vaccinated with the green passport,” Edelstein said. “Go get vaccinated – it will not only protect you and your environment, it will also allow you to return to a normal life faster.”
At the same time, several creative initiatives are under way to help encourage vaccination.
Clalit Health Services said that beginning next week it would offer vaccination at large companies and factories where thousands of employees go each day.
The staff will come to the place of work – nurses, computer administrators and logistic teams – to facilitate the vaccination of company staff.
Israel Aerospace Industries will be among the first employers to receive this service.
“The vaccination campaign is a national operation that is progressing step by step,” said Clalit VP Yoram Segal. “Workplaces that want to increase immunization rates among their employees are welcome to contact us.”
IAI workers committee chairperson Yair Katz added: “This challenging period has taught us all to act creatively and think outside the box. The vaccination campaign we are leading in collaboration with the health funds is a great example of how caring for employees and society is paramount.”
Also, Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center launched a mobile vaccination campaign targeted at yeshiva students in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak. A mobile unit traveled between the city’s largest yeshivas and offered people to get the jab.
A separate campaign took place Thursday night at which haredim in the city were encouraged to come and get vaccinated and receive a portion of cholent, a traditional Jewish stew consisting of beef, potatoes and beans.
Hadassah-University Medical Center announced on Thursday that it had vaccinated 92.3% of its staff – more than any other hospital in the country.
“We will continue vaccinating hospital staff until we’re done,” said Prof. Zeev Rotstein, head of the hospital.
Specifically, 95% of physicians, 92% of nurses and 90% of managerial and other support staff have been jabbed.
The government is expected to meet next week and continue discussions about the green passport program, which should begin on February 23 if there are three million people vaccinated with their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine – including 90% of people over the age of 50, less than 900 serious cases, and a reproduction rate (R) of less than 1.0.
In that phase, while street shops would open for everyone, several other establishments would be able to resume business under the green passport program, meaning that only people who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus could use them.
These places could include strip malls, gyms, cultural and sporting events, museums, exhibitions, libraries and hotel rooms.
There is also a possibility about allowing people to show a negative test taken within 24 to 72 hours before entry, but several health officials, including Edelstein, said they believe this could encourage people to forgo vaccination.
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene the cabinet on Thursday to move forward with reopening the country, but no date or time was set for a meeting.
As noted, close to half a million school children returned to school on Thursday within the framework approved by the government to gradually reopen the country, as the number of coronavirus daily cases decreased substantially for the second day in a row.
At the same time, some commercial activities decided to defy the regulations and open, while a cabinet meeting that was set to take place on Thursday to discuss the matter appeared likely to be postponed until next week.
Only daycares and grades 1-4 in cities that meet a set of criteria that includes a low infection rate and high vaccination rate are allowed to reopen, leaving some two million Israeli students at home.
While none of Israel’s biggest cities qualified, the Health and Education ministries allowed municipalities to return children to classrooms in individual neighborhoods that meet the criteria. Jerusalem thought that it could open some schools, but was forced to retract a message sent to some parents and inform them that their children would continue on Zoom.
On Thursday night, the Jerusalem Municipality updated its message and said that preschoolers, kindergarteners and children in grades 1-4 in the Beit Hakerem, Ramat Motza and Beit Safafa neighborhoods could go back to school.
Some 5,635 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported on Thursday. At press time, there were 992 patients in serious condition and the death toll stood at 5,272.
While the infection rate of the general population is decreasing, health officials expressed concern over the rise in morbidity in the Arab sector, and speculated that it might have been caused by an outbreak of the new highly contagious South African variant, sources in the Health Ministry told The Jerusalem Post’s sister paper Maariv.
Specific tests to detect the mutation are being carried out, they added.