Ignore the detractors - Israel deserves all the vaccine plaudits

Israel is the example to which all Western counties aspire, writes the Board of Deputies' senior Vice President

February 03, 2021 10:17

Nobody could doubt that vaccinating an entire population in a couple months is a complicated undertaking. However not everyone is struggling to provide doses to its populations.
At the time of writing, Israel has given first doses of Coronavirus vaccine to 54 per cent of its population – all this around a month and a half since the first dose was injected into the first arm.
Not only is Israel leading the world in the vaccination effort. With its advanced medical research infrastructure it is also providing the data which will inform vaccination programmes as they gear up around the globe.
It also means that, possibly for the first time since Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision Song Contest three years ago, the country is in the news for reasons completely unrelated to the sad, ongoing conflict.
Suddenly Israel is the example to which all Western counties aspire – a nation which has made its vaccinated the majority of its population in an unbelievably short time period. The data which is now beginning to emerge is equally exciting for everyone whose lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. As administered to Israelis, the vaccines are working just as the manufacturers claimed they would. Israeli Ministry of Health figures show that only 531 over-60s, out of almost 750,000 fully vaccinated, tested positive for coronavirus (0.07%) And far fewer fell ill, with 38 becoming hospitalised with moderate, severe or critical disease.
The Ministry of Health did not provide a control sample but healthcare provider Maccabi has done so. Its figures show that, out of a group of 248,000 vaccinated, just 66 people (0.03%) caught the Covid-19 virus, more than a week after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. Of those 66, all had mild symptoms and none were hospitalised. Maccabi compared the infection rate with 900,000 unvaccinated people with a similar demographic profile. In this group during the same time period, 8,250 caught Covid.

Israel has been applauded for its programme. However, there is a smaller group of critics for whom nothing Israel does can be considered praiseworthy. The simple fact is that Israel has been vaccinating its entire population with no regard to religious belief or ethnic identity. Arab citizens of Israel have been vaccinated alongside Jews. In Jerusalem, jabs have been given to Jews in the west of the City and Palestinians in the east.
These perennial denigrators have pointed to the fact that the inhabitants of the Territories have not been part of this programme, conveniently overlooking that under the Oslo Accords, responsibility for healthcare was transferred to the Palestinian Authority. The Authority has not requested any help from Israel and is sourcing its own vaccines from Russia. Despite this, Israel has offered assistance and earlier this month became the first country to give away some of its stockpile of vaccines to the Palestinian Authority for emergency provision.
Of course, not all the news is good. Israel has been badly hit by the second and third waves of the virus and has the unwanted distinction of being one of the few countries in the world to have imported both the British and South African variants of Covid. The death toll has been high and the Government has come under fire for its handling of the crisis. However, nothing can take away from the wonderful achievement of Israel’s vaccination programme. For once the world is watching this small, over-achieving nation for the right reasons as it points the way forward for all of us to escape this disastrous epidemic.
Ignore the whinging detractors. Israel deserves all the plaudits for its tremendous vaccination achievements.
Sheila Gewolb is Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies


February 03, 2021 10:17

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