IDF recommends Home Front Command oversee COVID-19 vaccine distribution

IDF and Health Ministry in talks to establish joint "vaccination system."

Israeli army Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a IDF lab in central Israel on July 15, 2020. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90 (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
Israeli army Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a IDF lab in central Israel on July 15, 2020. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
The IDF is recommending that the Alon Command Center set up by the IDF Home Front Command be involved in vaccinating the citizens of Israel, according to a senior IDF official.
The IDF, he said, is in conversation with coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash about potentially establishing a vaccination system similar to the one set up to cut the chains of infection, although no decision has been finalized.
The first vaccines are expected to arrive in the country as early as this month. Pending approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, they would begin being administered in Israel. The health funds are expected to play a key role in the vaccination system as well.
The IDF’s Alon Headquarters currently has some 3,000 soldiers and volunteers trained as epidemiological trackers and working under its direction. The senior official said that a tracker can now close the circle in less than 24 hours.
It has also begun working with two companies, through Sheba Medical Center, to carry out home testing, replacing Magen David Adom. The samples are brought to the lab. It is expected that some 100,000 samples could be processed during December.
“This week we started running two more laboratories to decipher tests, and later this month we will reach 100,000 a day,” he stressed. “At the same time, there are three private laboratories that can perform 50,000 tests a day.”
According to the original plan laid out by the Health Ministry, Israel should have carried out the number of tests in question daily, several months ago. Lately, an average of 60,000 people a day have been being screened for the virus.
The senior official also noted that there has been a significant improvement in public cooperation, following earlier reports that nearly half of all Israelis lie during epidemiological inquiries. He said that “during the month of November, we saw a significant and important improvement in this matter.
“We were getting around five contacts per investigation,” he said. “We are currently around 11 contacts per investigation and that’s fantastic. Forty percent or more  report 10 or more contacts. Another 40% report nine or more.”
He said that around 70% of people who were asked to get screened were tested and, of those, 14% were found positive.
The senior officials said that the headquarters is preparing for the winter and has carried out simulation exercises with the Health Ministry.
The HQ operates under the command of Brig.-Gen. Nissan Davidi alongside the Health Ministry as part of a nationwide project to reduce the number of coronavirus cases in the country.
It is made up of four departments, the National Investigations Center, testing, quarantine facilities and laboratories.
With thousands of Israelis unemployed due to the economic fallout and lockdown, there are also hundreds of volunteers from regional authorities who have joined the effort, as well as security personnel who have been furloughed from Ben-Gurion Airport.
Supervised by nurses, the contact tracers are not only regular conscripts from the Education corps, and other non-combat troops and reservists, but hundreds from the Arab-Israeli and ultra-Orthodox communities, two communities from which they hope to recruit additional personnel.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.