Israel ‘ahead of the entire world’ on Coronavirus vaccinations
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Israel ‘ahead of the entire world’ on Coronavirus vaccinations

Prime minister heralds country's progress in bid to protect almost a fifth of its population by the end of the month

Netanyahu with the millionth Israeli to get a jab - Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin
Netanyahu with the millionth Israeli to get a jab - Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin

Israel was “ahead of the entire world” on Covid-19 vaccinations, Benjamin Netanyahu declared this week, with a fifth of the population likely to be protected by the end of this month.

The Israeli prime minister’s statement came after the millionth Israeli was vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech on Friday, promising that two million will have received the dose in three weeks’ time. The country’s population is around nine million.

By early December Israel had ordered 14 million doses of the vaccine from both Pfizer and Moderna, another US firm. This is enough for seven million people, because two doses per person are required for full protection.

Netanyahu had initially said the administration of vaccines would begin on 27 December, but in fact it began on 19 December – starting with him.

Israel’s health ministry has prioritised the country’s 250,000 medical personnel to vaccinations, followed by the elderly, those at-risk due to underlying health issues, and carers. IDF personnel are next in-line, followed by the rest of the population.

Large sections of Israel’s strictly Orthodox community are believed to be sceptical about the vaccine, but Netanyahu said: “I’m asking every Israeli citizen to be vaccinated… We’re bringing an end to this plague.”

Health minister Hezi Levy said this week that, because of the enthusiastic take-up to-date, Israel would now be easing the speed of vaccination to eke out its supply.

“We are slowing the pace of vaccinations of the first dose, so that we can keep reserved stock for a second dose for all those who got a first shot,” he said.

Levy added that by the end of the month all Israeli medical staff and those over the age of 60 would have received a vaccination, the two jabs being three weeks apart. “We’re breaking all records,” Netanyahu said. “We are ahead of the entire world.”

With another election due in March, Netanyahu is now in campaign mode, citing the fast vaccine rollout as a reason to vote for him, but for much of 2020 he was urged to resign in weekly street protests led mainly by young Israelis whose employment and business prospects have been devastated by the lockdowns.

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