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Israel media review

Vax pop: What the press is saying on December 31

Israel’s speedy vaccination drive will not continue apace, and the ‘lockdown’ is seen to be having little effect, but for now, shots are still on the house

A Maccabi Healthcare Services staffer holds up a vial of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A Maccabi Healthcare Services staffer holds up a vial of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

1. Jonesing for more syringes: Israel’s world-leading sprint to total immunization may come to a screeching slowdown, according to official messaging Wednesday and Thursday.

  • This comes after days of racing to give shots to as many people as possible, not all of them high risk, and with unsourced reports of millions more doses on their way.
  • Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tells Channel 12 news that the ministry may stop administering first doses for “a short period.”
  • Speaking to Ynet, he says that people don’t need to worry about those who need it most getting it, and says there are enough second doses for everyone who got their first: “There’s not going to be a situation where an 80-year-old who did not want to vaccinate until now, suddenly shows up and there’s no shot for them. We want to be certain, that if say 1.5 million people were vaccinated, we have 1.6 or 1.7 million shots in the freezer. Not agreements, not on the way, not maybe tomorrow, but in our freezer.”
  • He adds that the shots campaign will end January 10 and resume for new patients in early February. His top bureaucrat though has slightly sunnier numbers.
  • “There’s going to be a two-week break, we’re trying really hard to advance the shipments,” Health Ministry head Chezy Levy tells Kan.
  • As for when more will arrive, Minister Eli Cohen tells Kan that “the prime minister is in personal contact with Pfizer. At the end of the day, every citizen will have a vaccine. We’ve bought vaccines from every company that has approval or is on the way to getting approval.”
  • Army Radio reports that Moderna has offered to send “tens of thousands of doses” to Israel earlier than initially planned.

2. Shot chasers: In the meantime, everyone is keeping the good times rolling, with tales of shots available to anyone who asks nicely or shows up at the right time.

  • In Arab Baka al-Gharbiya, a Clalit clinic has two people directing traffic as the response has been high among Jews from other places who stop in to see if they can grab a jab, Haaretz reports.
  • “It’s heart-rending that response is so low in Baka,” clinic director Dr. Murad Watad tells the paper. “In the Jewish community they’re fighting for every dose and so I asked the municipality to launch a campaign because it would be a shame to lose out. We’ll vaccinate anybody who shows up, no doubt, but it’s a pity for the city’s residents not to take advantage of what they have at their disposal.”
  • Channel 12 reports that the same thing is happening in Shfaram, another Arab town nearby, where 75 percent of those being vaccinated are Jews, many of whom just show up.
  • “We heard if we come here we can get a shot,” an elderly couple tells the channel.
  • Channel 13 claims that in some Arab cities, HMOs are opening vaccinations to anyone who stops by to use up extra doses even without an okay from the Health Ministry.
  • Home Front Command sources tell the channel the campaign has gotten “out of control,” creating unneeded waste.
  • “It was clear already from Thursday that a large amount of vaccine was likely to be thrown away,” one source tells the channel, saying that the Health Ministry was pushing the vaccines faster than some municipalities were able to handle.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Facebook groups are popping up for shot-chasers, people trying to get intel on where they are opening up shots to the general public (which they do because of the short expiration date), with social media filling up with rumors, many of them false, about where one can go to skip the line and get the shot right away.

3. Shot, chaser: Newly vaccinated ToI editor David Horovitz, however, marvels at the way the shots are being pushed out after a family outing to the immunization station: “A country notorious for bureaucratic red tape has set up an unprecedented nationwide vaccination operation in an instant — computer databases whirring into logistical operation, vaccination centers fitted out, staff hired and trained, millions of precious vaccine doses purchased, imported and distributed.”

  • “My mother had not been out of the house except for medical appointments since March,” he adds. “Her journey today, and her second trip, three weeks from now, I pray, will be her liberation. We haven’t hugged her since March either. But today, when we brought her home, I allowed myself to kiss her gently, briefly on her head, through my mask and her hat.”
  • That second liberation shot, as it turns out, may be pretty vital. Kan reports that of some 15,000 vaccinated people who were tested for the virus within nine days, 428 tested positive, and 12 even needed to be hospitalized.
  • Make that number 429, with MK Israel Eichler testing positive for the virus, despite being among the first in the country to get vaccinated.
  • Indeed, the virus does appear to be still be running wild nationwide. Army Radio reports that 10 Haredi yeshivas have seen outbreaks in recent days, some with over a quarter of the students getting the virus.
  • Walla prints a picture of a cop buying a falafel from a stand, which is technically illegal, and reports that an hour later, a restaurant next door was fined NIS 5,000 for serving takeout, calling it an expression of “what the lockdown looks like.”
  • Yedioth runs pictures of people out and about as normal, under the cutline “nothing new under the sun.”
  • Channel 12 says the Health Ministry plans on trying to push again for a stricter lockdown, but isn’t holding out much hope. “Unlike September, when we knew the closure would bring the morbidity down, this time the closure is quite weak and we expect it will not have the same effect,” a ministry source is quoted saying. “The only tool we have are the vaccines and they take time. We are worried the infection rate will continue to grow and are considering recommending stricter steps… but in the current political situation, it will be hard to do.”

4. Flipollarding out: While Jonathan Pollard’s return gets little to no mention in much of the press, Israel Hayom goes crazy for the arrival of the former spy, devoting its full front page and 10 more pages of coverage to the event.

  • “Pollard on Israeli soil,” reads the front page headline, with a picture of him landing (and interestingly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cropped out of the front page picture with him.)
  • Pollard’s flight to Israel from New Jersey, on the plane of Israel Hayom publisher Sheldon Adelson, is described by editor Boaz Bismuth as if it is some secret operation, which he compares to the missions to bring thousands of Jews from Ethiopia and Yemen. Bismuth indicates that he knew of the secret journey for some time.
  • “Jonathan – excuse me, Yehonatan – was released, and there is no greater freedom for a Jew than to live in Zion. For that to happen, there needed to be a triad in place that included an American president who was friendlier to Israel than any before him; an Israeli prime minister committed to bringing Pollard home; and work by good Jews, some of whom I know, to bring the dream to fulfillment,” he writes, as if Pollard had not served his full sentence, had not served a full five years of parole, and could not have moved to Israel like any other Jew.
  • There’s plenty more of that pabulum from other writers, as well as a column from Miriam Adelson that is not translated into English, probably because of the awkwardness of one of the biggest Republican donors writing so flatteringly of a man who was a traitor to the United States.
  • “Jonathan deserves the deep and eternal gratitude of Israel,” she writes, calling him a “hero.”
  • She does mention that her adopted homeland might not love what he did, but says it was a one-time thing and claims it was only to “save the Jewish people.”
  • In Haaretz, Yossi Verter notes the secrecy involving Pollard’s arrival, which included the prime minister not inviting the official photographers who are supposed to accompany him to official events, let alone journalists beyond Bismuth. That leads to suspicions that this was coordinated in a way to make it an exclusive for Israel Hayom or campaign material for Netanyahu.
  • “In a private conversation, diplomatic sources opined Wednesday that press office photographers were not invited so that Netanyahu could use the photographs in his election campaign. The Prime Minister’s Office sweepingly denied this claim, and said that campaign videos have made use of Government Press Office materials in the past,” he writes.
  • In Yedioth, which buries coverage on Page 12, columnist Sivan Rahav Meir still speaks glowingly of having Pollard back even if he never was Israeli before, and takes heart from the few words he said on the tarmac about Israel’s future being the future of the Jewish people: “A simple speech that reminds us, in these days of divisions and ugly political fights, that we have a common story.”
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