Israelis Will Be Exempted From Quarantine a Week After Receiving Second COVID Vaccine Dose

Netanyahu supports extending the lockdown by one more week if infection rates remain high. A final decision is expected on Tuesday

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A medical professional prepares to administer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a woman at a makeshift vaccination center in a sports arena in Jerusalem, January 14, 2021.
A medical professional prepares to administer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a woman at a makeshift vaccination center in a sports arena in Jerusalem, January 14, 2021.Credit: Maya Alleruzzo,AP

People who have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be exempt from quarantine after coming into contact with a confirmed coronavirus carrier if a week has elapsed since they received the second dose of the vaccine, Israel's pandemic czar Nachman Ash said Sunday.

This is currently the only benefit available to someone who has received both doses. “We’re also talking about other things, once we continue with the use of the ‘green passport’ and open the economy,” Ash said, referring to the certificate issued for those who have been vaccinated. “In the coming days, a computerized system will go online that will enable vaccination certificates to be issued.”

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According to Pfizer’s trials, its vaccine reaches maximum efficacy of 95 percent about a week after the second dose is administered. However, it’s currently not clear whether the vaccine actually prevents infection or merely the development of the disease.

Many experts say it’s highly likely that the vaccine also protects against infection, but Pfizer’s trials didn’t examine this question. Consequently, someone who has received both doses of the vaccine may still be able to infect others.

It’s also not yet clear how long the vaccine’s protection remains effective. Ash said that it’s still being discussed which activities will be open to holders of a “green passport.” 

Police enforce a third nationwide coronavirus lockdown in Tel Aviv, January 13, 2021.Credit: Hadas Parush

“At the moment, we’re dividing these activities into two; planned activities to which people are invited in advance, like the cultural world and part of the sports world, and on the other hand, other activities that are less planned, which will be opened later,” he said.

Ash also said the number of new patients has been dropping, but this hasn’t yet led to a decline in the number of seriously ill patients. The infection coefficient, meaning the number of people each patient infects, has fallen to 1.09, he added, but that remains well above the government’s target of less than 1.0. Any number above 1.0 means the virus is spreading.

“Based on these numbers, we’ll decide whether to recommend an extension of the lockdown,” he said. “Chances of this happening are high.”

Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the government will make a decision whether to extend Israel's third lockdown on Tuesday. In Sunday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu added that the decision will be made in accordance with the COVID-19 infection rate. 

Netanyahu said that he hopes the number of Israelis receiving vaccinations each day will reach 200,000, and that Israel will “gradually introduce the ‘green passport’ program in some parts of the economy and public life, until we reopen completely.” 

“We are in the thick of a close race between the spread of the mutation and the vaccines,” Netanyahu continued. “I believe that with the cooperation of every citizen of Israel, we will win this race.” 

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