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Israel Starts its Coronavirus Vaccinations Sunday: Who gets it, and When?

Israel’s nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign is set to begin next week.

On Sunday, health care workers in health maintenance organizations and hospitals will be first to receive the vaccine, and the general public will be able to be inoculated through their HMOs on Monday.

Vaccinations in HMOs will be starting two days ahead of schedule, and will be given out in order of priority: The first to receive the shot will be members over age 60.

Israel now has an estimated 500,000–600,000 doses of vaccine, and additional batches are arriving every few days. At this point, the Health Ministry doesn’t foresee any problems regarding the pacing of these deliveries.

HMOs are reinforcing their customer service hotlines and are expecting heavy call traffic in the coming days. Every vaccination center is expected to have a reception station, a questionnaire station, an inoculation station with medical equipment and a waiting area for patients who have received the vaccine. Medical staff at these centers are expected to be inoculated as well.

What about my HMO?

The Clalit HMO, which insures 4.7 million Israelis, started sending text messages to its members aged 60 and older on Friday, asking them to make an appointment to receive the vaccine starting on Monday.

Appointments can be made via the Clalit website and its hotline (*2700). The HMO has set up 400 vaccination centers across the country, and plans to vaccinate 40,000 of its members a day.

Maccabi, the second largest HMO, started inviting its members by email on Thursday to make an appointment for a vaccine beginning on Monday.

Policy holders can do so through Maccabi’s hotline (*3555), and in the coming days will be able to make appointments via the HMO’s app and website.

Maccabi plans on vaccinating 25,000 policy holders a day, seven days a week, depending on the pace at which vaccines arrive.

For the first week of the coronavirus vaccination campaign, the HMO is setting up 24 vaccination centers across Israel.

As more and more vaccines arrive in the country, they will be administered at about 300 stations in over 80 centers.

The Meuhedet HMO opened its hotline for vaccine appointments on Thursday, and will soon invite members aged 60 and up to call the line or make an appointment on its website.

For the first stage of the vaccination campaign, the HMO will inoculate its policy holders in nine clinics throughout the country, and will run 60 vaccination stations and four mobile clinics at the peak of the operation.

The Leumit HMO will start calling on its members aged 60 and up on Sunday to make an appointment for a vaccine.

During the first stage, it will inoculate policy holders at 12 centers, and at the operation’s peak will operate 60 vaccination centers throughout the country.

What about health care workers?

On Sunday, Israel will start inoculating medical staff at hospitals At this stage, hospitals have been allocated a limited number of vaccines – between hundreds and thousands for each institution, depending on its size – and staff are required to actively sign up to be inoculated.

Haaretz found that in a number of medical centers throughout the country, health care workers are relatively highly receptive to being vaccinated, and hospitals are reporting the same.

At a few hospitals, workers reserved all the available doses within just a few hours of registration opening. Some hospitals have even requested additional doses.

Hospital and HMO directors announced that they would take the vaccine first and invited the media to film it, in the hope that it will encourage their teams and the public to follow suit. Some doctors told Haaretz that they’ve seen a positive change regarding the vaccine; in the past, some of their medical teams have been hesitant about being inoculated.

Who gets the vaccine next?

After health care workers, including first responders, and people aged 60 and older, the next population to receive the vaccine will be people in high-risk groups.

According to a Health Ministry statement released earlier this week, the group includes people with diabetes, morbid obesity, a suppressed immune system and other health issues that increase the risk of COVID-19 mortality.

The next group to be inoculated is those at high risk of being exposed to the coronavirus, including teachers, social workers, prisoners and prison guards. After them, IDF soldiers and security personnel will be vaccinated in accordance with a plan that will be submitted to the Health Ministry, and then the entire population, subject to HMO schedules.

Children under age 16, people who are recovering from the coronavirus, pregnant and breastfeeding women and people with severe allergies will not be receiving the vaccine at this time.

Header: A nurse in the Maccabi HMO vaccine center for COVID-19, in Tel Aviv, December 13, 2020.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem,AP

Source: Ido Efrati – HAARETZ