Israeli Health Minister tells Andrew Marr: We’ll open up society after '80 per cent' of over-16s get vaccinated

Yuli Edelstein discusses Israel’s plans to come out of the crisis on BBC programme


Israel’s Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has told a British TV audience that his government wants to vaccinate 80 per cent of over-16s against coronavirus before opening up society.

Interviewed today on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Edelstein said: “We have nearly 28 per cent of the population under the age of 16.

“So of the population left, we want to get to very high numbers, probably to 80 per cent, and then we will be able to talk [about] something that reminds [us] of herd immunity.

“We do have to keep in mind that those who have recovered from Covid are not being vaccinated; we consider them at this stage at least immune.”

However, the government would still need to work out how to manage the school system.

Israel has now vaccinated nearly 40 per cent of its eligible population and has begun administering jabs to 16-18-year-olds.

Mr Edelstein had detected a “change of spirit” in Israelis since the vaccination roll-out but warned against complacency.

Pressed on the same programme about the 80 per cent of over-16s vaccinated figure as a basis for returning the UK to some sort of normality, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was more reticent.

He said: “We know with a high degree of confidence that the vaccine protects people from serious disease and, of course, from dying.

“But we don’t yet know the impact on…how much you transmit the virus. That’s why it’s so important that people continue to stay at home after they’ve had the vaccine.”

There was concern in the UK this week after a study by Israeli scientists found the Pfizer vaccine was only 33 per cent effective 14 days after a first jab, calling into question the decision here to extend the period between the first and second vaccination to up to 12 weeks.

However, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance,  pointed out that the vaccine did not begin to have an impact until at least ten days after injection.

Mr Edelstein said that while his government had also discussed delaying the second dose in order to give more of the population their initial jabs, a decision was ultimately made to abide by Pfizer’s recommended timelines.

“The vaccination is not a panacea,” he stressed. “We are very glad about this campaign; we hope we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“But it doesn’t mean that the moment we get to 50 per cent or 60 per cent of the population vaccinated, it will be the end of coronavirus.”

Asked about criticism that Israel wasn’t doing enough to vaccinate Palestinians, he responded: “I think that it’s Israel’s obligation, first and foremost, to its citizens. They pay taxes for that, don’t they?”

It was in Israel’s “interest, not our legal obligation” to ensure Palestinians received the vaccine.

He had authorised passing some vaccines “to those medical teams who directly work with corona patients in the Palestinian Authority”.


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