Israel sets order of priorities for vaccine, but survey finds 1/3 of population don’t want it

Health care workers will be first in line to get the Covid-19 vaccines coming to Israel, but over a third of the population says it will refuse the inoculation.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Ministry of Health released the order of priorities of who will receive the Covid-19 vaccines that are being flown to Israel. Hundreds of thousands of doses of the Pfizer medication have already arrived, and the next few weeks should see millions more doses, produced by both Pfizer and Moderna.

The guidelines follow criteria in common with the rest of the world.

All medical personnel, some 250,000 people, head the list, as they are “the fighters at the forefront and must stay healthy,” Dr. Anat Angel, CEO of Wolfson Medical Center, told 103FM Thursday.

Next come the geriatric population in institutions and their caregivers, who total another 350,000. After that will be other elderly, according to age criteria and the availability of the vaccine. Those with underlying medical conditions, psychiatric patients, and teachers are next, in that order. Finally, IDF soldiers round out the priority list.

The rest of the population will not be completely left hanging, the Health Ministry said, as health funds will go towards inoculating those who aren’t prioritized, if possible. Kan News reported Sunday that altogether, Israel’s four HMOs could at maximum immunize about 80,000 people per day.

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Israel’s health establishment faces challenges, however, with a worrying statistic released Sunday showing that over a third of the population says it doesn’t want the vaccine. According to an Israel Hayom poll, 37% said that they will refuse to be inoculated. Even among the high-risk elderly (age 65 and over), a fifth said they would refuse, and only 63% said they wanted the vaccine.

Less than half of all respondents (44%) overall responded that they will definitely get it, with the rest giving varying answers in between a firm “yes” or “no.” The populations that are least willing are those who have been most affected by the disease: Only 35% of Arabs (both Christian and Moslem) and 26% of haredim and former haredim said they would go for the vaccine.

There is no current legal way to force even medical staff to get the vaccine, so the issue is one of persuasion, said Angel.

“They (medical personnel) are not obligated to get vaccinated at the moment and the public is not obligated either, so we will work on advocacy,” she said. “I strongly believe in advocacy, persuasion and understanding the importance [of getting vaccinated].”

Not everyone will be allowed to join the initial program. Pregnant women and children under the age of 16 who were not included in the clinical trials will not get inoculated, nor will those with severe allergies. Anyone who has had the disease is presumed to be immune and will not be vaccinated at this point either, although it is not yet known for how long antibodies remain as there have been a few cases of people getting the coronavirus twice.

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