Israel launches its coronavirus vaccination drive

Israel will first immunize health workers, followed by those over 60 years old.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

On Sunday, Israel began its coronavirus inoculation drive, aiming to vaccinate some 60,000 people a day in a bid to stamp out the illness that is once again surging among its population.

Israel will first immunize health workers, followed by those over 60 years old. Israel says it has secured sufficient doses for much of the country’s 9 million people from both Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccine U.S. authorities approved this week for emergency use.

On Saturday, to kick off the drive, Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were vaccinated together at Sheba Medical Center in the city of Ramat Gan. The name for Israel’s vaccination operation is “Give a Shoulder.”

Edelstein, upon receiving his vaccine, said, “Today I looked at the date – December 19th. On this year in 1984 was my trial in the USSR because of my desire to immigrate to Israel. Today on December 19th, 2020 I have the great privilege of being the Minister of Health in the Israeli Government, and together with the Prime Minister – to open the operation ‘Give a Shoulder’. Friends, there’s reason for optimism.”

The two were kept under observation for a half hour to watch for any side effects.

Public opinion polls have shown that many Israelis are leery of receiving the vaccine. Most are hesitant due to concerns about the vaccine’s safety given its record fast rollout. One survey found that 75% of Israelis say they’ll refuse to take it

The concerns prompted Netanyahu to take the shot publicly, saying he wanted to set a “personal example” and insisted on being the first Israeli vaccinated.

The state has put a special emphasis on convincing members of the ultra-Orthodox or haredi, community to take the vaccine. Infection rates have run high in that community, which is marked by synagogue prayers and group study.

The first haredi rabbi to take the vaccine is the former chief rabbi of Israel and current rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau. “I consulted with my personal doctor who is a God-fearing Jew and head of a [medical] department, as every person over the age of 70 should do, and he told me that I should also make sure the rebbitzin [my wife] should get vaccinated. And so every person should do,” Lau said, according to Channel 20.

Hezy Levy, director general of the Minister of health, said, “An exciting day with a lot of hope, there is a great response to get vaccinated and that is the key to getting out of the corona crisis. Our directive to hospitals and health funds, to vaccinate the medical staff today and tomorrow and starting Tuesday to vaccinate people aged 60 and over.”

Levy referenced the fact that the coronavirus has seen a resurgence in Israel. He also spoke of the mutation in the UK. He said there’s no evidence that the mutation can withstand the vaccine.

But Netanyahu said on Sunday, “We don’t know how this [mutation] affects vaccines.

Israel announced on Sunday that those returning from the UK would be sent to corona hotels to quarantine. Australia, Denmark and Brazil may also be added to the list of those countries where returnees will need to quarantine in hotels.