Israel’s world-leading vaccination drive is edging closer to the objective millions in the country and many more around the world have sought for more than a year: a return to normalcy. Since Israel began administering the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, about 80% of high-risk group members have been inoculated. In addition, as the numbers of those vaccinated have grown, hospitals have reported a steady decline in seriously ill COVID-19 patients and the rate of overall spread. According to a study of 1.2 million people by Israel’s largest health organization, 94% fewer symptomatic illnesses and 92% fewer critically sick cases have occurred among the recipients of the vaccine.
At Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital, a couple of wards for the treatment of light COVID-19 cases just closed, but according to Dr. Yael Haviv-Yadid, Director of Sheba’s COVID-19 Critical Care Wards, staff are still busy with critical patients, as young people account for a growing proportion of those seriously ill. This is mostly due to lower vaccination rates, and according to Dr. Haviv-Yadid: “There are young people who think nothing will happen to them, but we have to keep watching our health.”
While the pace of vaccinations has slowed somewhat in recent weeks, Israel’s success has spurred the government to ease restrictions on movement that have been in place for months. As of this week, sporting and cultural events will be open to those who have been fully vaccinated, and everyone will be allowed to go to malls and shops. According to experts, Israel’s success stems, in large part, from the ability of its centralized, efficient and advanced health care system to rapidly distribute the shots.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, set a goal of inoculating most of the 6.5 million people older than 16 by the end of March, allowing the economy to completely reopen. About 4 million people- 43% of residents – have received at least one dose. Almost a third received two doses.