Israel's latest lockdown proving the least effective so far

Vaccine drive slowed by 50%, official laments, blaming online ‘fake news’

HMO warns many young people ‘don’t understand the vaccine’s importance’; top Health Ministry official says inoculation efforts won’t succeed in conferring herd immunity

Illustrative: An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in a gymnasium in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon, on February 4, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Illustrative: An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in a gymnasium in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon, on February 4, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Even though vaccines are now being offered to all Israelis over the age of 16, the pace of inoculations has slowed dramatically, a senior official in the country’s largest health provider said, accusing online “fake news” of promoting vaccine skepticism.

“At the beginning of the [vaccination] campaign we got used to inoculating between 100,000 and 120,000 people per day, and in the last few days we are barely reaching half of those figures,” Kalanit Kaye, the manager of Clalit’s vaccination drive, told the Ynet news site.

“We are prepared, our centers are big and accessible, the process should be pretty simple on the whole, vaccines are being given for free, so I don’t understand the people who don’t come to get the shot. It’s a big mistake,” she lamented.

Israel’s vaccination program with the Pfizer/BioNtech shot is ongoing, with 3,426,810 people having received the first dose as of Sunday. Of those, 2,016,351 had also received the second dose.

Kupat Holim Clalit’s Kalanit Kaye (Channel 12 Screeshot)

“There was greater cooperation among the at-risk populations,” Kaye added. “Right now we’re reaching out to the younger public, and some people don’t understand the vaccine’s importance. Unfortunately, the fake news on social media and in the press is doing damage. People aren’t sufficiently afraid of the coronavirus because they aren’t familiar with what it causes.”

According to Health Ministry data released Sunday, 92.8 percent of those 60 and over either received the first vaccine dose or had been infected and recovered from COVID-19.

Some 69% of those 60 and over received the second dose more than a week ago, effectively making them immune to the virus.

Israelis receive a COVID-19 vaccine at a sports hall turned into a Clalit Health vaccination center in Hod Hasharon, February 02, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

During a meeting Sunday of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, one of the country’s top health officials said that even with a much higher vaccination rate, the inoculation drive won’t be enough for herd immunity.

Head of public health services in the Health Ministry, Sharon Alroy-Preis, during an undated government meeting (Knesset Spokesperson)

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the head of public health services in the Health Ministry, said, “Since there are 2.5 million children who cannot be vaccinated, we likely will not reach herd immunity, even if the entire rest of the population gets vaccinated.”

Children under the age of 16 were excluded from vaccine trials, and cannot be inoculated until further research is conducted.

According to the data released Sunday, Israel’s third lockdown has been the least effective one since the beginning of the pandemic.

The number of patients in serious condition when Israel entered the first lockdown last March was just seven, and 101 when it ended two months later. The second lockdown began in September 2020 with 568 serious cases, and ended with 647 about a month later.

Israelis sit at Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv, which opened Sunday, as Israel eases the restrictions of a 3rd lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Sunday, as Israel began to lift its third lockdown, which began in early January with 949 serious cases, hospitals were struggling to cope with 1,144 coronavirus patients in serious condition.

“If there had not been a third lockdown, even with partial participation, the situation would have been much worse; this is what worries me with the exit now,” Alroy-Preis added.

The data also showed the rate of positive tests during each lockdown, with the first beginning with 3.7%, and ending with just 1.7%. The second lockdown began with 9.4% and ended with 4.5%. The third lockdown, which began at 4.9%,  ended with a positive test rate of 9.4%.

Soldiers of Israel’s Home Front Command walk the streets of the central resort city of Netanya to inform residents and to guide them in finding testing tents on February 7, 2021, following the lifting of a nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jack Guez/AFP)

According to Health Ministry figures Sunday, Israel recorded 2,625 new coronavirus infections on Saturday out of 28,852 tests performed; 1,144 patients were listed in serious condition, including 312 who were on ventilators. The death toll climbed to 5,096 as of Sunday morning, according to ministry figures.

Alroy-Preis said, “If we do not want to reach tens of thousands of cases and thousands in serious condition, the lockdown exit strategy must be careful, responsible, and slow.”

Israel’s third nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 was eased on Sunday at 7 a.m. after over a month, yet there was no final agreement regarding the reopening of schools and kindergartens.

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