Almost 380,000 Israelis were vaccinated during the first eight days of the country’s inoculation operation.
Some 169,000 of those received the first of two doses over the weekend, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced.
The highest number of people injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine came on Sunday, with over 98,000 individuals inoculated, Edelstein said.
Israel, he tweeted, is the global leader among countries inoculating their citizens, with 3.23 per 100, as of December 26.
The country’s stated goal for daily inoculations is 150,000.
As Israel prepares to enter its third national COVID-19 lockdown, and as it readies for its next round of elections in March, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday night that if the country maintains its current pace of vaccinations, some 2.25 million people, or close to 25% of the country’s 9.1 million residents, will be inoculated by the end of January.
Some 3.01 million children in Israel are under the age of 17; the vast majority of them will not be vaccinated. Thus, among the population eligible for inoculation, over 35% are expected to be vaccinated within a month, if sufficient doses are supplied.
According to the prime minister, in conversations with the heads of the vaccine providers, “I asked them to match the rate at which the vaccines are supplied to the pace of the inoculations, and they said that they think they can do it.”
Prof. Jonathan Halevy, president of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said he believes the government. “They have delivered the goods. I don’t see any reason we will not reach this number,” he told The Media Line.
“It is a game changer. I don’t know if we will reach 150,000 per day, but 100,000 we will readily reach. I can see 2 million people inoculated in January,” he said.
“If we vaccinate 2 million people in a month and there are already some 1 million Israelis – though statistics say about 400,000 – who have or had coronavirus, we are in good shape to reach herd immunity for the population, which I would say is somewhere in the 60% -70% range,” Halevy said.
It is not known more exactly how many cases of the coronavirus there have been since many cases are not reported because the infected person is asymptomatic, particularly among the young.
Whereas the prime minister is “starting the week with gigantic news,” at 5 p.m. on Sunday the country started its week by entering into a third national lockdown.
The lockdown closed many of the country’s economic centers such as shopping malls, retail stores and restaurants. Food stores and stores essential for home repairs will be among those permitted to operate.
It is a game changer. I don’t know if we will reach 150,000 per day, but 100,000 we will readily reach. I can see 2 million people inoculated in January
The Bank of Israel reported that this closure will cost the economy NIS 2.5 billion per week, positing that 90% of the economy will continue operating.
The lockdown permits people to move within 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) of their homes, but prohibits public or multi-family gatherings. It closes nonessential stores, and cancels restaurant pick-up services – but allows delivery services. Meanwhile, police are erecting roadblocks inside cities and on highways to stop travel.
The 1-km. rule comes with exceptions, including for political protests, personal exercise (without the use of vehicles), receiving medical treatment or vaccination, transporting a child between separated parents, going to a permitted place of work or to a permitted educational activity, or leaving home to attend a funeral, wedding or circumcision, subject to the restrictions on gatherings.
In-person education for pre-school children ages 0-6 and for grades 1-4 will continue.
In a last-minute change, in-person classes also will continue for grades 5-12, except in communities designated “red” because of high infection rates, where teaching will be conducted via teleconferencing.
An oft-stated, non-official reason for the lockdown is to curb public and semi-private New Year’s Eve events that attract hundreds of participants to city centers and would likely increase contagion.
The government has approved at least two weeks of closure, with an additional two weeks to be instituted if infection rates do not sufficiently decline.
We are a model for the entire world and we can meet the challenge. However, it all depends upon the supply of vaccines
Medical professionals are skeptical that the country can reduce its basic reproduction infection rate – known as R – to below 1 and the number of new cases per day below 1,000 within the initial two-week period.
One of those voices, Prof. Arnon Afek, deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv, told The Media Line: “I don’t believe the lockdown will be for only two weeks. That is too short to achieve our goals.
“It really has not been decided if it will be for two weeks or a month. This is a burden on society. It is quite heavy not only financially but also the isolation, and we hope it will be the last lockdown,” said Afek, a member of Israel’s national professional coronavirus advisory board.
Currently the country is averaging well above 3,000 new daily infections, with over 4% of those tested found to have contracted the coronavirus.
A health ministry spokesperson told The Media Line on Sunday that Israel’s infection reproduction rate R was 1.26% and the goal is 0.8% or less. An R rate above 1 means the number of cases is increasing.
On Sunday, the country opened over 105 vaccination stations in hospitals, clinics, community centers and in the Jerusalem Arena, which usually hosts sporting and entertainment events.
More stations are being opened every day, Afek said.
“We are a model for the entire world and we can meet the challenge. However, it all depends upon the supply of vaccines,” he acknowledged.