As Israel’s vaccination drive against the coronavirus began, questions arose Sunday after a series of public figures and politicians got the inoculation ahead of the general public even though they are not over the age of 60, the minimal age for Israelis who will initially be allowed to vaccinate.
Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin tweeted that he felt “uneasy” with that.
“It was right for the prime minister, president and health minister to be vaccinated first to create public trust in the vaccine, and they are also all over the age of 60,” said Elkin, who is 49 years old. “But skipping in the vaccine line under the umbrella of a PR push for the vaccines only harms public trust.”
Elkin said that while it made sense to make a decision to order the immediate vaccination of all ministers, lawmakers, top army brass and mayors, no such decision had been made.
“Until there is such an orderly and transparent decision, I would recommend that all of us wait in line and vaccinate in accordance with age and health status, together with the entire public,” he said.
Israel’s vaccine drive officially began on Sunday morning, with healthcare workers and other select public figures set to receive the coronavirus shot throughout the day. From Monday, Israelis aged 60 and over and at-risk populations can receive a vaccine by appointment at health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Saturday became the first in Israel to receive the Pfizer vaccine, President Reuven Rivlin got the shot on Sunday morning, calling on the public to book their own appointments.
While Netanyahu, Edelstein and Rivlin — as well as Finance Minister Israel Katz and former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who also got inoculated Sunday — are all over 60, some other politicians and public figures received or were set to receive the vaccine even though they don’t meet the age requirement.
Science Minister Izhar Shay (Blue and White), who is 57, tweeted photos of himself being vaccinated Sunday morning at Sheba Medical Center.
תודה לאחות טניה מבית החולים שיבא. שמחתי להיות בין המתחסנים הראשונים לקורונה בארץ. אני קורא לכל אזרחי ישראל: צאו להתחסן! עם התגייסות כוללת המגיפה תוכל להיות מאחורינו בקרוב. החיסונים עברו את כל התהליך הנדרש והם בטוחים לשימוש. זהו ניצחון גדול למדע ולאנושות. pic.twitter.com/DkYuq5aK1R
— Izhar Shay – יזהר שי (@Izhars7) December 20, 2020
Reports also said that also among those intending to get vaccinated publicly on Sunday to set an example were Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion (aged 59) and his wife Stavit (55), Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich (49), Beit Shemesh Mayor Aliza Bloch (53), IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (56), Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau (54) and United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindros (49).
None of those officials mentioned that they belong to an at-risk sector of the population, which could make them eligible for the shot from Monday.
Kohavi urged all soldiers to get the vaccine, which the IDF has not made mandatory. He had earlier said he would be the first in the IDF to vaccinate in order to convey the message to the IDF to get the inoculation.
Rivlin (81) got the vaccine Sunday at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital and made remarks aimed at refuting fake news circulating online about the vaccine’s effects.
“The concerns are legitimate, but it is important to remember that the vaccines that are in Israel have gone through meticulous processes, have passed stringent checks and been approved both by the US Food and Drugs Administration and the Israeli Ministry of Health. These are serious bodies for whom the value of human life, trust and accuracy are their guiding lights. We can trust them,” Rivlin said.
“When you go and get vaccinated, you are not only taking care of your own health, but of the health of those around you. You will also be helping everyone to return to normal life. You will be helping the economy to restart and to take some of the enormous pressure off our medical teams,” he added.
The government hopes to inoculate some 60,000 people per day and as many as two million Israelis by the end of January. But Hebrew-language media reports said the first week would serve as a pilot program, tamping down expectations that hundreds of thousands of Israelis would be vaccinated within days.
After inoculating those over 60, Israelis working in jobs with a high risk of exposure to the virus, such as teachers, social workers, first responders, and prison staff (prisoners will also get priority); and Israel Defense Forces soldiers and other security personnel will be vaccinated.
Last will come the rest of the population, with a timeline depending on how many doses arrive in Israel and the level of demand by the priority groups.