Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday presented figures showing that over 210,000 vaccination shots were administered the day before, a new record for the country’s mass inoculation program.
“That is the pace to defeat the mutation!” Edelstein tweeted, referring to the highly contagious so-called British strain of the virus that has been blamed for a recent climb in infection numbers despite the ongoing immunization efforts.
Edelstein provided ministry data showing that 2,272,000 people have so far had the first of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including 550,000 who have also had their second dose. The number represents close to a quarter of Israel’s 9.3 million citizens and maintains its position as the country with the highest per capita vaccination rate in the world, according to monitoring groups.
Urging continued adherence to Health Ministry lockdown guidelines, which on Tuesday were extended until January 31, Edelstein wrote “a little more and this will be behind us.”
His figures were more optimistic than numbers released by the ministry during the morning, which showed that 56,008 people had their first dose on Tuesday and another 114,769 had the second shot for a total of 170,777. It was not clear why there was a discrepancy in the numbers.
The ministry said 8,511 new cases were confirmed Tuesday, a drop of some 1,500 from the record-shattering 10,058 cases detected on Monday. The figure for Tuesday was the lowest weekday daily caseload in over a week.
The positive test rate also dropped to 9.2%, having reached 10.2% on Monday.
Since the start of the outbreak early last year 570,085 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Israel and there are 82,930 active patients.
The number of seriously ill patients slid for the fourth day in a row, dropping to 1,113, with 308 on ventilators.
The death toll rose to 4,142 as a further 21 people died Tuesday. It was the lowest number of fatalities in a day since the end of December.
The reports came the day after the government voted to extend by 10 days an ongoing national lockdown applied to curb infection rates. Following the unanimous cabinet decision, is it is now scheduled to end on January 31.
Ministers also approved a fine of NIS 2,500 ($772) for anyone who arrives in the country without a recent negative virus test, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Under the new policy, the test must be conducted within 72 hours before landing in Israel.
At the meeting health officials said the impact of the lockdown on infection rates was yet to be seen but was expected to become apparent in the coming days.
In a move to further ramp up the vaccination rate, the Health Ministry on Tuesday instructed the country’s health maintenance organizations, who are spearheading the vaccinations, that vaccine shots, set aside as second doses, can now be used as first shots, with the HMOS relying on new supplies arriving in time to keep the second rounds of injections on schedule. The move came after a recent deal was struck with Pfizer-BioNTech to quickly provide many more vaccination units.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday advised that pregnant women should begin getting vaccinations, regardless of their age, following a spate of expecting mothers who fell seriously ill after contracting the virus.
As the vaccination drive continues the eligibility age limit has been dropped and shots are now available to anyone over the age of 45.
The government has set a goal to inoculate the entire over-16 population by late March.