Unvaccinated people who contract the coronavirus are apparently also refusing to accept the antibody treatment that could prevent them from getting seriously sick or dying, a health provider said on Saturday.
Last Thursday, Israel began to widely administer Regeneron’s under-the-skin injection synthetic antibody treatment to COVID-19 patients with a risk of developing a serious disease, prioritizing the unvaccinated who are far more likely to deteriorate.
According to the report by Channel 12 news, the Meuhedet health fund offered the treatment to seven unvaccinated patients who were in danger of becoming seriously ill.
Only one of them agreed to accept the treatment, compared to six who refused.
The health fund said that, in comparison, the drug was offered to two vaccinated people who both agreed to immediately start the regimen.
The report said that health professionals believe this could be a pattern that they start to see as the use of the drug becomes more widespread.
“As soon as we got the green light to use Regeneron, the control center has been working to find suitable candidates for the treatment. We reach out to them to explain it to them and try to convince them to receive it, but I share in the frustration of my staff,” Dr. Erez Carmon, head of medical services at the coronavirus command center for Meuhedet.
“Despite the explanations, unvaccinated patients won’t accept the Regeneron treatment. They say that they are under heavy pressure from the community and their family to refrain from it. Fortunately, most vaccinated people express a willingness to treat and protect themselves. There’s a very small window of opportunity to defend yourself, it’s just a shame to miss it,” he said.
The treatment, which was credited in the recovery of former United States president Donald Trump, uses a combination of two antibodies as a treatment of those already sick with the virus and as a preventive measure to help inoculate those still healthy.
Antibody drugs are one of the only treatments proven to reduce the risk of death from COVID-19, especially for people who are not yet in the hospital. It is authorized for preventative use by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Meanwhile, Idit Matot, director of anesthesia in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, told Channel 12 on Saturday that the decision to not get vaccinated was in some ways suicidal, and had a knock-on effect on the lives of other patients who were unable to get the care they need.
Matot said that the hospitals were full of unvaccinated young people — the majority of whom eventually survive their bout with COVID-19, but are hospitalized requiring intensive care for prolonged periods of time.
Matot said that after their initial hospitalization with COVID-19, the pressure on the hospitals means they are then being transferred to normal intensive care units for the remainder of their treatment, taking up beds initially earmarked for those with other medical issues.
“It is possible to prevent this situation, it does not only affect the unvaccinated, who have decided to die by suicide to one degree or another — it affects us all here,” she said.
Matot said that the medical teams were exhausted, and criticized the government for refusing to impose new regulations.
“As a government they have to be much more decisive, there is a traffic light system [for different localities]. They should use it — do not start with [blanket] restrictions. I should not have to pay the price for the unvaccinated population. It should be unequivocal — either you get vaccinated or you get tested every three days,” Matot said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday reportedly pushed back against imposing new coronavirus restrictions, even as the number of COVID patients requiring ventilators climbed to levels not seen in Israel in months.
According to the Health Ministry on Sunday morning, 215 people infected with the coronavirus were on ventilators out of a total of 711 patients listed as in serious condition.
While Israel’s fourth wave of infections has seen record numbers of daily cases, the number of patients needing hospitalization has remained lower than during previous waves, which experts attribute to the country’s high vaccination rates.
The death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 7,649. A total of 567 people have succumbed to the virus since the start of the month, making September the second consecutive month that Israel has recorded at least 500 deaths, after August saw 609 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
Ministry figures also showed 2,616 new infections on Saturday, continuing a downward trend, with the number of active cases sinking slightly to 63,022.
Amid the mixed numbers, government and health officials have appeared to feud over imposing additional coronavirus restrictions, with Bennett reportedly deciding against further limitations on gatherings.
Meeting Saturday night with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, coronavirus czar Salman Zarka, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash, and the directors of Israel’s health providers, Bennett reportedly said that proposed restrictions on gatherings would harm the economy and not reduce morbidity.
“The government policy is an open Israel alongside an unrelenting and sophisticated war against the virus. Not quarantines, lockdowns, more and more restrictions, which is the easiest thing to do, but solutions,” Bennett said, according to the Ynet news site.
“I think about the patients, everyone in the coronavirus ward is a heartache, but I also think about the economy, the education, the parents who have to work and the children who have to study,” he reportedly said.
Bennett was said to have told the heads of Israel’s HMOs that their focus must continue to be pushing the vaccinations.