Over five million people in Israel have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Health Ministry figures published Thursday, representing some 54 percent of the total population of some 9.3 million.
A mass inoculation drive based on the Pfizer-BioNtech two-shot vaccine has so far given both doses to 5,003,113 people. Out of the eligible population over the age of 16, that figure represents some 80%.
Meanwhile, 5,372,417 people have had at least the first shot.
Israel’s world-leading vaccination program has seen it maintain the highest per capita inoculation rate in the world since it began in late December.
Israel is preparing to start vaccinating children aged 12-15 as soon as the US Food and Drugs Administration approves vaccine use for children in that age bracket.
Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levi said Thursday that when that age group has been vaccinated, the country will reach herd immunity and there will be no need to inoculate younger children, Kan news reported Thursday.
As the vaccination drive pushes ahead, infection rates have plummeted, with ministry figures showing just 113 new cases detected Tuesday — a fraction of the several thousand cases a day that were being diagnosed at the beginning of the year.
There are currently 1,954 active cases in the country, of which 161 are in serious condition. Since the start of the pandemic last year, 837,668 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Israel. The death toll was given as 6,346 Thursday, with one person dying the day before.
Positive virus test rates have dropped to just 0.2 percent, while the virus reproduction number — which indicates how many people each virus carrier infects on average, was given as 0.75. Any number less than 1 shows that the virus spread is diminishing.
Also Thursday, the Health Ministry issued a travel warning to seven countries caught in a wave of virus infection, citing concerns of possible coronavirus strains that may be more resistant to vaccines.
The countries listed in the travel warning were Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Turkey.
The ministry further said all Israelis, including the vaccinated and recovered, should generally avoid any “unnecessary” international travel altogether.
The warning came as health officials express concerns over a new mutated strain detected in India, which is dealing with one of the worst outbreaks since the pandemic began in 2019.
As infections have dwindled Israel has rolled back restrictions on public life, including lifting the requirement to wear face masks outdoors, which was ended on Sunday.