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As 2021 dawns, Israel becomes first country to vaccinate 10% of population

Israel became the first country Friday to have provided the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to 10 percent of its population.

With another 153,000 people vaccinated Thursday in 325 locations, some 950,000 had been inoculated by Friday morning, the Health Ministry said — or 1 in 10 Israelis in a nation of 9.3 million.

“Yesterday we broke a new record and vaccinated 153,430 people,” Health Minister Edelstein said in a statement, thanking medical teams for their work.

“Today we’ll pass one million.”

The Jewish state has far outpaced other countries so far, according to statistics from the Our World in Data website operated by Oxford University. Second place is held by Bahrain with 3.37%, followed by the UK with 1.39% (though the latter’s data is a few days old). The US stands at 0.84%.

Israel started vaccinating on December 20, with a focus on healthcare workers and then on over 60s and at-risk sectors.

Its globe-leading vaccination drive has been attributed to various factors, including its relatively small but densely-packed population and highly-professional, community-integrated health services.

Next week, a large-scale vaccination center is set to open in Tel Aviv’s famous Rabin Square, and aims to inoculate approximately 5,000 people per day, the city’s municipality said in a statement Thursday.

The vaccination tent and 20 vaccination booths will be operated by medical staff from Ichilov Hospital, starting with Tel Aviv residents over 60, and later to all Israeli citizens.

Throughout the pandemic, Rabin Square was used as a COVID-19 testing site, conducting over 1,500 tests per day. The testing site is expected to continue operations alongside the vaccination center, even as it ramps up inoculations.

The campaign currently uses the Pfizer vaccination, which requires two shots, spread a few weeks apart. Though not yet available to the general public, vaccination centers have also been opening their doors to all comers at the end of each day in an effort to make sure vaccine units available for immediate use do not go to waste. So far some 30% of over 60-year-olds have had their first shot, according to Health Ministry figures.

However, a shortage of injections means the ministry might be forced to semi-freeze the campaign for two weeks in January. The pause would allow those who have received the first dose to get the second dose, but new first doses would not be given.

Channel 12 news reported Thursday that one million vaccines from the US biotech company Moderna will arrive in Israel next week, rather than in March as had previously been agreed, boosting dwindling supplies. However, the Health Ministry said it had no such information.

“We would like to clarify that as of now, we don’t have information about Moderna’s intention to move up the delivery of millions of vaccines to Israel,” the ministry said in a statement.

Later, the network cited sources in Moderna as insisting the shipment was ready and that its departure was only a matter of final approval. The report said Moderna officials were “surprised” at the ministry’s apparent denial.

Meanwhile Health Ministry Director-General said Thursday that officials “intend to start [vaccinating] under-60s next week. It depends of course on the speed in which [healtcare providers] finish vaccinating over-60s.”

It was not clear how this statement squared with the threat of a shortage.

While the inoculation program has ramped up, so have infection rates, which prompted a third national lockdown that began on Sunday.

Active “cases” stood at 43,615 early Friday, 679 of them in serious condition, and the death toll was at 3,325. Daily infections have topped 5,000 over the past few days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel is aiming for some 2.25 million Israelis out of a population of 9.2 million to be vaccinated by the end of January.

Header: An Israeli military medic gets vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus at the medical centre of Tzrifin military base in the Israeli town of Rishon Lezion on December 28, 2020. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Source: TOI

Notes:

One million vaccines from the US biotech company Moderna will arrive in Israel next week, rather than in March as had previously been agreed, boosting dwindling supplies that had led to expectations of a dramatic slowdown in the country’s mass inoculation drive, Channel 12 news reported Thursday.

The Moderna vaccine has not yet been used in Israel as part of its immunization program.

The Health Ministry has not officially announced its approval for use in the country, but is expected to do so after the FDA okayed it for emergency use in the US.

The drive currently uses the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination, which requires two shots, spread three weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine is also a two-shot inoculation.

Though not yet available to the general public, some vaccination centers have been opening their doors to anyone who comes at the end of each day in an effort to make sure vaccine units available for immediate use do not go to waste.

So far some 30 percent of citizens over 60 have had their first shot, according to Health Ministry figures.

However, a shortage of injections threatens to force a semi-freeze on the campaign for two weeks in January.

More Pfizer vaccine supplies are only due in February and current stocks will run out in about 10 days at the current pace of inoculation, Channel 13 reported Wednesday.

The scheduled pause would allow those who have received the first dose to get the second dose, but new first doses would generally not be given.

This in turn would likely lead to a delay in opening vaccinations to the general public. Some officials had previously assessed that could happen within a week or so, but unless stocks are replenished it would need to wait a month and a half or more, the report said.

Source: TOI