Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi will all be vaccinated against coronavirus in the coming days, their offices said, as leaders seek to serve as an example for the Israeli population.
Israel is preparing to launch a mass vaccination program next week, with the government setting a target of 60,000 vaccinations a day once the drive begins, meaning two million Israelis could be vaccinated by the end of January.
Along with some four million doses from Pfizer expected to arrive by the end of the month, Channel 12 news said Wednesday that another four million were expected to come by the end of March for a total of eight million doses — enough to vaccinate four million people.
The network said Moderna’s vaccine, which could receive emergency approval from US regulators within days, as well as a vaccine being produced by AstraZeneca, are not expected to arrive in Israel before April.
Netanyahu, who declared last week he would be the first Israeli to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, confirmed Wednesday that he would be vaccinated on Saturday night, as Israel readies to launch a national vaccination campaign.
“I asked to be the first vaccinated to serve as an example and to convince you that you can and need to get vaccinated,” he said in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Rivlin will receive the vaccine on Sunday at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, according to a statement Wednesday from the President’s Residence.
“The president will visit the hospital to mark the beginning of the process of vaccinating the medical teams, and to congratulate them on their outstanding work during the fight against coronavirus across the country,” the statement said.
And the Israel Defense Forces said it would begin vaccinating soldiers by the end of next month by level of necessity. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi will receive the military’s first dose of the vaccine on Sunday in order to set a “personal example” to the rest of the troops, the military said.
Once large quantities of the coronavirus vaccine arrive in Israel over the coming weeks, the military will begin vaccinating troops on a larger scale.
Meanwhile the Health Ministry on Wednesday released a detailed list of who would be inoculated first when the vaccine drive kicks off next week.
Topping the list were hospital workers, followed by employees of health maintenance organizations (HMOs), private health clinics, and dental offices; medical and nursing students taking part in clinical rounds; members of Magen David Adom and other ambulance services; and residents and caregivers at senior living homes.
Later on in the initial stage, the Health Ministry said that those in risk groups and anyone over 60 would be vaccinated at HMOs. Next will be those with medical conditions that put them at particular risk; Israelis working in jobs with high exposure of risk to the virus such as teachers, social workers, first responders, and prison staff and prisoners; and Israel Defense Forces soldiers and other security personnel.
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. Netanyahu said that if there is a surplus of doses, the general public will be permitted to get the vaccine sooner.
A number of groups will not receive the vaccine at this stage, including people who have recovered from COVID-19; women who are breastfeeding or pregnant — or soon planning to get pregnant; people with a history of severe allergic reactions; and Israelis under 16.
The expected start of the vaccination campaign was moved up to next week from December 27, after the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Pfizer’s vaccine over the weekend.
Israel has purchased millions of doses from Pfizer, the first batch of which arrived at Ben Gurion Airport last week.
It has also agreed to buy 6 million doses from Moderna, enough for 3 million Israelis. The FDA on Tuesday said there were “no specific safety concerns” with Moderna’s vaccine and it is expected to soon get the final go-ahead from US regulators.
Moderna’s chief medical officer, who is Israeli, said last month that Israel would be one of the first countries to receive its vaccine once it is approved.
The government has set a target of 60,000 vaccinations a day once the drive begins, meaning 2 million Israelis would be vaccinated by the end of January.