Ultra-Vaxxed Israel’s Crisis Is a Dire Warning to America
In June, there were several days with zero new COVID infections in Israel. The country launched its national vaccination campaign in December last year and has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 80 percent of citizens above the age of 12 fully inoculated. COVID, most Israelis thought, had been defeated. All restrictions were lifted and Israelis went back to crowded partying and praying in mask-free venues.
In a Sunday press conference, the directors of seven public hospitals announced that they could no longer admit any coronavirus patients. «I don’t want to frighten you,» coronavirus czar Dr. Salman Zarka told the Israeli parliament this week.
Israel vaccinated its population almost exclusively with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which received full FDA approval on Monday and remains the gold standard for the prevention of severe illness due to the coronavirus. It is not an Israeli problem. A group of 70 elderly vaccinated Israelis with transplanted kidneys were the first to receive a third dose. As of this week, all Israelis over 30 will be eligible to receive booster shots.
By the end of the month, they are expected to be universally available to anyone over the age of 12 who received their second vaccine five months or more ago. Israel will then reconfigure its Green Passports, granting them only to the triple-vaccinated, and limiting their validity to six months. In anticipation of this change, the number of unvaccinated Israelis getting their first shots has tripled since the beginning of August. The World Health Organization has asked wealthy countries to halt all third vaccines for a period of two months, hoping that a moratorium will allow poorer countries, where few citizens have received even a first inoculation, to catch up.
The United States rejected the call and Israel has ignored it. Asked what has brought Israel to peak transmission even as the country has already provided third doses of vaccines to 1.5 million citizens, Rahav, who has become one of the best known faces of Israel’s public health messaging, sighed, saying, «I think we’re dealing with a very nasty virus. » We can all learn from other countries, but you can’t copy paste other countries’ methods. Unlike New Zealand, which aims for zero community transmission of the coronavirus, and imposes lockdowns when even a single positive case is identified, Israeli authorities have opted for a model they are calling «living with corona».
«Israel really is a pioneer,» Levine, the former chairman of the nation’s Association of Public Health Physicians, said, referring to the groundbreaking vaccination campaign and the country’s efforts, currently underway, to fully reopen schools on Sept. He has asked the government to impose stricter limitations on the size of cultural and sports events until the incidence of the coronavirus declines. «Each country has to assess its own epidemiology,» Levine said, «its culture, its public health, the public’s confidence in its health authorities.» Referring to New Zealand, he added that «we can all learn from other countries, but you can’t copy paste other countries’ methods». Israel was forced to make quick decisions and in a time of great uncertainty.
Levine was among the public health officials who expressed doubts about the wisdom of Israel’s untested move towards nationwide booster vaccination, but he told The Daily Beast that the latest statistics, showing that only 0.2 of the first 1.1 million recipients of the third jab were infected with the coronavirus, proved it had been a «brave decision». Like the other experts, Rahav supports schools reopening, but noted that thanks to upcoming Jewish holidays, which will close schools in about 80 percent of the country, Israel will once again be uniquely positioned to serve as a huge laboratory.
Source: The Daily Beast