Israelis Over 55, Teachers to Begin Receiving COVID Vaccines Starting Tuesday

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A vaccination center in the Bedouin town of Kseifa.
A vaccination center in the Bedouin town of Kseifa.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The Health Ministry announced Monday that it will expand its vaccination drive as of Tuesday and begin inoculating Israelis who are at least 55 and teaching personnel.

Up to now the minimum age for receiving the vaccine in Israel had been 60.

The move follows the arrival in Israel on Sunday afternoon of an additional 680,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, which will also enable the public health system to vaccinate younger patients with underlying health conditions, as well school staff members and other priority populations that have not been vaccinated so far.

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As of Sunday, 1,870,652 Israelis received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 49,879 of them on Sunday alone, according to the Health Ministry. As of Monday morning, there were 69,861 active coronavirus cases in Israeli, including 6,706 cases diagnosed on Sunday.

There are currently 1,715 hospitalized coronavirus patients, of whom 1,044 are in serious condition, and 251 are on ventilators. A total of 3,671 coronavirus patients have died of the disease in Israel.

Following the arrival of the latest Pfizer batch, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had come to an agreement with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla for the shipment of additional vaccine in a quantity sufficient to complete the vaccination of Israel’s adult population by the end of March. The pace of vaccinations, the prime minster said, will be stepped up to 170,000 a day. So far more than 72 percent of Israelis who are 60 or over have received at least one of the two-shot regimen, he said Sunday, and another huge shipment of vaccine will be arriving at the beginning of next week, allowing for the further expansion of the program.

“Towards the middle of March, five million people will have received the coronavirus vaccine,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein added. “It’s possible. It’s in our hands and we will do it.”

For his part, the country’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Nachman Ash, said Sunday that the public health system is seeking to boost capacity to vaccinate 200,000 Israelis a day. He expressed the hope that the effects of the mass immunization program, which is beyond what any other country in the world has done on a per capita basis, will soon be reflected in a decline in the incidence of infection.

A shipment of Pfizer vaccine arriving at Ben-Gurion airport, Jan. 10. 2021.Credit: Moti Milrod

“Our strategy is to vaccinate the populations at risk and in the process reduce the incidence of serious illness and open up the economy,” he declared. “We began the vaccination campaign three weeks ago, and we anticipate that the initial effect of the vaccines is after approximately 10 days, so we should already begin to see it,” and this should include an improvement in the number of seriously ill patients.

The Education Ministry has said that it is prepared to vaccinate the entire staff of the country’s school system in cooperation with the Health Ministry. The first phase will involve staff who are teaching during the current lockdown when most schools are closed. In practice, this means that the first phase will be directed at personnel from special education programs and youth at risk programs including residential settings. They will be able to be vaccinated this week through the country’s four HMOs.

The remaining members of the staff of the education system will be provided with online forms enabling them to request vaccinations. The information will be provided to their respective HMOs, which will then schedule their shots. The vaccination campaign will also include personnel at the country’s preschools. Over the weekend, the HMOs were informed that 220,000 doses of vaccine will be set aside for educational staff.

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