On Friday, a clandestine operation to vaccinate teachers and educational workers was revealed by the mayor of a Tel Aviv suburb.
In a 72-hour maneuver reminiscent of a covert military operation, the municipality of Ramat Gan and local hospital Sheba Medical Center, decided to inoculate some 1,500 education workers, including local teachers and kindergarten workers.
Calling the education workers “education fighters who are at the frontlines of the most dangerous coronavirus,” Ramat Gan mayor Carmel Shama HaCohen revealed the operation in an effusive social media post.
“It was exciting and felt a bit like one of the operations bringing new immigrants. It was moment to moment and under the radar … but now it is possible to tell that we have finished a vaccine operation of more than 1,500 workers from the city’s education system within 72 hours,” wrote Shama HaCohen.
According to Shama HaCohen, the impetus for the operation was a 50% infection rate among students, teachers and other members of the local education system during the third infection wave. The mayor said that the numbers left him no choice.
It was moment to moment and under the radar … but now it is possible to tell that we have finished a vaccine operation of more than 1,500 workers from the city’s education system within 72 hours
Just days earlier, a more public operation to vaccinate teachers and kindergarten staff by the larger Tel Aviv municipality was closed down by the national government. When the health ministry found out, it temporarily stopped providing vaccines to the local Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov), effectively cutting off the drive.
In Jerusalem, the country’s largest city, the municipality on Sunday announced an accelerated program to vaccinate its education sector workers. It will begin with special needs program staffers and other teachers over the age of 50.
On Friday, the health ministry announced, likely in response to a looming strike by workers in the special education sector scheduled for Tuesday, that vaccinations are available for teachers in the special needs sector, as well as teachers in boarding schools and youth villages, who all continue to work in classrooms.
“If everything were to work properly, these 20,000 special education specialists and the others can all be jabbed within a day,” Edna David, deputy chairperson of the Israel Teachers Union, told The Media Line.
More than 2,000 teachers throughout the entire education sector have been ill with COVID-19 and, altogether, over 100,000 teachers and students have been quarantined throughout the pandemic, she said.
One father whose son is in a special adult education framework, was quite happy to hear the news. Though his family was recently inoculated, they had been forced to quarantine twice during the pandemic, he told The Media Line.
Israel – which has vaccinated more than 1.8 million people, or more than 15% of the population – has reached more than 72% of those over 60, the health ministry reported.
The country is now taking steps to bring vaccinations to the population living outside of the country’s center and major population areas.
“It takes more time to open clinics and set up the logistics in the periphery,” due to both physical logistics and cultural distrust, Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of the School of Public Health at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, told The Media Line.
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A major step that public health authorities are taking, alongside the health ministry, he said, is to work with local “influencers” or “authorities” such as rabbis, imams, mukhtars and other community leaders in order to convince people to get vaccinated.
Getting their active support will be key to ensuring the entire country is vaccinated by the end of March, which is the current schedule, he said.
It takes more time to open clinics and set up the logistics in the periphery
Other nations are not yet at the stage where sectors are fighting over who gets vaccinated.
In France, for example, only 500 people, mostly over age 70, were inoculated during the first week of coronavirus vaccinations. Later, the government invited firefighters, home care workers and medical staff over 50 years old to get vaccinated. As of January 8, France’s vaccination program provided just over 800,000, or 0.12% of its population, with shots.
In the US, the rollout recently started to reach the 21 million eligible health care and frontline workers, as well as residents of long-term care facilities. As of January 8, close to 7 million have been inoculated with the first of two doses.
The US plans next to roll out vaccines to approximately 49 million people, including frontline essential workers who are not health care workers, and those over age 75. This will be followed by those ages 65 to 74, and then people ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions putting them at risk for severe COVID-19.
In the United Kingdom, those over age 80 who are hospitalized, as well as frontline health staff and care home workers, are the first to receive the vaccine. They are being followed by frontline health care and social workers, and everyone over age 80. Some 2 million are said to have received their first dose and the health ministry announced on Sunday it was vaccinating 200,000 daily.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the UAE announced on Saturday that over 1 million people had been vaccinated for a national distribution rate of 10.32 doses per 100 people. Priority is being given to elderly residents and nationals as well as those with chronic diseases, reported the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).
Dubai is first vaccinating government employees in vital professions, those over 60, people with chronic diseases and the elderly, as well as frontline workers. They will be followed by those in the private health care sector.
In Saudi Arabia, the rollout began with those most exposed to the disease, while a later stage will target those over 50 years of age before vaccines are made available to the wider public.
In Egypt, health care workers will be the first to get inoculated, according to its health ministry. The country expects to see the first vaccines arrive later in January.
On Saturday, Jordan reported the first batch of vaccines from Sinopharm had arrived and said it expects to receive vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech on Monday. The country announced it will first vaccinate frontline workers and those most vulnerable to the coronavirus.