Israel hits record 1.5 million vaccinated, but running short of vaccine

More vaccines on the way, but short supply puts temporary halt to vaccinating new people in order to keep enough for the required second dose.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel has successfully vaccinated about 16% of its population with the first of two required inoculations against the coronavirus, but with supplies running low new vaccinations are not being given, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday.

About 1.5 million Israelis have so far received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine produced by the American company Pfizer. Of those vaccinated so far, 65% are aged 60 and over, and 35% are younger comprising medical and other essential workers, and others who received vaccinations at hospitals or other vaccination stations.

Although the Health Ministry designated Israel’s older and at-risk populations to receive the first doses, many young people queued up for vaccinations at day’s end. Israel made what Health Minister Yuli Edelstein called the right decision in deciding to vaccinate anyone who showed up rather than lose perishable doses.

The Ministry of Health warned about an expected shortage of doses, having to reserve the remaining 1.5 million shots of the Pfizer vaccine for the second follow-up vaccination required three weeks after the first injection.

All four of Israel’s health maintenance organizations (HMOs) said they are currently completing the appointments for the final first doses, but would soon stop in order to ensure there is enough vaccine available for the second doses for those 1.5 million Israelis who already received it.

Israel also ordered 6 million doses of the vaccine produced by the American company Moderna, which announced Monday that it had received approval for use in Israel. The first shipment of Moderna vaccines is expected to land in Israel this week, but Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the main shipments of Moderna vaccines – enough to inoculate 3 million Israelis – were not expected until March.

Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna treatment also requires two doses administered several weeks apart.

In a statement Monday, Moderna said it expects about 100 million doses to be available in the United States by the end of the first quarter of 2021, with 200 million doses total available by the end of the second quarter. Moderna reported that approximately 18 million doses have been supplied to the U.S. government to date.

Israel’s vaccination campaign launched on Dec. 19, and HMOs are gearing up to administer the second shot beginning next week.

The Maccabi health fund announced that more than 80% of its members in the at-risk groups have already booked an appointment for the vaccine and 400,000 of its members have received the first dose. Maccabi said the second round of vaccinations will begin on Sunday and they are expecting to vaccinate up to 40,000 patients daily.