Israel expected to begin coronavirus vaccination by next Sunday

Death toll nears 3,000 as Netanyahu tells public, ‘we are beginning the end of the pandemic’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tour Maccabi vaccination complex, Tel Aviv, December 13, 2020 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tour Maccabi vaccination complex, Tel Aviv, December 13, 2020
The country is expecting to begin vaccinating next Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Ministry Yuli Edelstein have confirmed.
There was hope that vaccination could start even earlier, such as sometime this week, if the Pfizer vaccines were able to receive Health Ministry approval and could be transferred to the hospital and health funds. However, The Jerusalem Post has confirmed that head of the Medical Management division of the Health Ministry, Dr. Vered Ezra, informed hospital directors in a meeting with them that this was unlikely.
“We are beginning the end of the pandemic,” the prime minister said Sunday morning.
During a tour of a Maccabi health fund coronavirus vaccination complex in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu and Edelstein confirmed that the health funds are ready to begin vaccination. The prime minister said that he feels confident in them to vaccinate the masses and that “we will probably be able to advance the vaccination to the Israeli public in the best way possible – in my opinion, the best in the world.”
Maccabi alone is expected to vaccinate around 25,000 people per day, its CEO Ran Saar said during the tour. A spokesperson for Meuhedet told the Post that the health fund could administer around 15,000 vaccines per day.
Last week, Netanyahu said that Israel hoped to inoculate as many as 60,000 people per day.
Medical professionals are expected to be vaccinated first, followed by senior citizens and people with pre-existing conditions. However, if enough vaccines arrive and not enough senior citizens sign up to get the jab, it is likely that vaccination will open up rather quickly to all who want it.
“If there are enough doses, we can vaccinate a number of groups at the same time,” Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy said Sunday night in an interview with Channel 12.
So far, around 150,000 vaccine doses have arrived in Israel and Levy said many more are anticipated to arrive this week.
Already there are reports that the prime minister and the health minister, and possibly President Reuven Rivlin, will be the first to be inoculated.
Edelstein cautioned that there has been a lot of fake news swarming media and social networks in recent days, “so I want to start fighting it now. We have seen publications that things are missing. These are only rumors; nothing is missing,” he said.
“In the coming days, we will announce that Israel is one of the first countries in the world to start vaccination,” he said.
In response to Netanyahu’s comments, MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said that “it is great that the vaccines are coming soon, but the coronavirus is with us for at least another six months. Instead of giving us the feeling that coronavirus is coming to an end, the government should do what is right: protect the nursing homes, introduce serological tests and allow us to live alongside coronavirus instead of telling us it is ending.”
Shelah’s comments came on the backdrop of a report published Sunday by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, which warned: “It should be remembered that the vaccines are not expected to have any significant impact on the course of the virus in Israel until after winter.”
There were 1,291 new coronavirus cases in Israel on Saturday, the Health Ministry reported on Sunday evening, and another 917 diagnosed between midnight and press time on Sunday. There were 349 people in serious condition on Sunday morning, including more than 100 who were intubated. The death toll hit 2,996.
However, Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science said that the vaccines would have an impact, in that they should prevent another lockdown.
“If we were now without the vaccines on the horizon,” he told the Hebrew website Ynet, “we would point to a clear upward trend that requires restrictions.” But he said he believes this recent outbreak will be able to be contained by the vaccine.
“Vaccination of the entire population over the age of 65 to 70 will dramatically reduce morbidity and the reproduction rate,” Segal continued. “If the effectiveness of vaccines is indeed high, within three or four weeks there will be a significant reduction in morbidity in the country.”
One of the things that could hinder the ability to vaccinate the masses, however, is fear over the safety of the vaccines, which were developed and approved in record time.
“If there is no response” from enough people willing to vaccinate, then “we are in trouble,” Segal told Ynet. “It is a big challenge, but I think it is possible.”
Prof. Nadav Davidovich, a member of the Magen Israel professional cabinet, did his part on Sunday to convince the public that it is OK to be jabbed.
In an article for the Hebrew website Walla, he wrote that “I will definitely get vaccinated – and that is what I will recommend for my family and friends.”
He explained that “the advantages of the vaccine far outweigh its disadvantages. No vaccine, or any medical technology, is free of the possibility of side effects.”
He said that it is starting to become apparent that coronavirus patients, even those who are asymptomatic, can and often do suffer from long-term negative health impacts from the disease.
“Without a doubt, the pendulum is swinging toward the vaccine now,” he concluded.
THERE ARE those Israelis who are eagerly waiting to be vaccinated, such as the members of Lema’anchem (for your sake), an organization that offers guidance and support to patients during their medical journeys.
The founder and director of the organization, Rabbi Yossi Erblich, appealed to Edelstein and other Health Ministry officials on Sunday, asking that they prioritize his staff and volunteers to be among the first to be inoculated.
He said that the members of the organization have worked alongside Magen Israel in general and its ultra-Orthodox desk in particular throughout the crisis.
“We were very excited, together with many other Israeli citizens, to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of vaccines in Israel,” the rabbi wrote. He said that Lema’anchem wants to be “the first organization in Israel to be vaccinated out of a desire and aspiration to set an example.”
He added that “responding to our request will allow the organization to continue, without any concern, to carry out its critical activities during these times.”
Those who have volunteered to be a part of the Israeli Institute of Biological Research coronavirus clinical trials were informed on Sunday that if they received a placebo vaccination, they would still be eligible to be inoculated by a Pfizer vaccine.
“Taking part in the trial will not impair any patient’s opportunity or ability to receive Pfizer’s vaccine if and when interested,” said Dr. Erez Barenboim, director of Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital.
He said that if there is such a request then the file could be opened, and the volunteer could find out if he or she received a placebo shot. If so, the volunteer could still be vaccinated with a Pfizer vaccine.
“If it turns out that the patient received the vaccine instead of the placebo, I believe that in a very short period of time, antibodies will appear in his blood, which will eliminate the need to receive Pfizer’s vaccine,” Barenboim said.
Those who are vaccinated are expected to receive a “green passport,” which the Health Ministry’s Levy said would serve as proof that people are vaccinated and provide them with certain privileges.
In an interview with Channel 12 Sunday night, he said those privileges could include not having to enter isolation when in contact with a verified patient and being able to enter restaurants and cultural activities.
The director-general added that the ministry is in contact with colleagues abroad about potentially making the card international and making certain advantages available outside of Israel.