Poorer Communities Have Lower Vaccination Rates, Israeli Study Shows

The gap between well-off and disadvantaged localities in Israel is even greater when it comes to COVID booster shots

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
A medical worker draws a coronavirus vaccine dose, Tuesday.
A medical worker draws a coronavirus vaccine dose, Tuesday.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Coronavirus vaccination rates are lower in poorer communities among every age group, according to an Israeli study published this week.

The study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies was conducted in early December, and showed that the difference is even greater when it comes to booster shots.

The study was based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Health Ministry and compared vaccination rates across communities with different socioeconomic conditions. In communities placed in the lowest socioeconomic category (1 on a scale of 1 to10), 40 percent of residents 60 and above had received a booster shot.

In communities categorized as level 7 and above, about 90 percent of those in this age group had received their third shot. Level 1 includes Bedouin towns such as Tel Sheva, Hura and Rahat, and the ultra-Orthodox city of Modi’in Ilit.

The difference is even starker among younger age groups. About 30 percent of those aged 49-59 in poorer communities have been vaccinated, compared to over 75 percent of those living in wealthier communities. This gap is also large among the 29 to 39 age group, with only 20 percent of those in the lower socioeconomic communities having been vaccinated, compared to some 65 percent vaccinated in towns with a higher socioeconomic rating.

Jerusalem's Jaffa Street, Monday.

The research was conducted by Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, the chairman of the health policy program at the Taub Center and the head of the Public Health School at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and Dr. Baruch Levy and Oren Miron, from the Department of Health Systems Management at Ben-Gurion; and Rachel Arazi, a researcher at the Taub Center.

Davidovitch, who also serves as a member of the expert panel advising the government on the pandemic, says that the way to improve the situation is making vaccines accessible and conducting a public information campaign. Until the 1980s, the Arab community in Israel had significantly lower vaccination rates, Davidovitch says. But, he adds, ever since vaccines were made more accessible, the community has seen very high vaccination rates.

The main problem is making the vaccines accessible, both physically and culturally, says Davidovitch: “We need to work with the family doctors and with people within the community. The Health Ministry recognizes that, but it takes time for things to trickle down.”

The socioeconomic gap is wider when it comes to the third shot, compared to the first and second, Davidovitch says. “For every vaccine you need to make the effort," he says. "There are those who will always be vaccinated, there are those who will never be vaccinated and there are more than a few who are afraid of being vaccinated – and you need to invest your efforts there. You need to do work that targets more of the different groups,” he added.

The authors of the study said that since they took the data samples, efforts have been made to make the vaccines more accessible, especially in communities where rates are low – though these efforts have not significantly changed the results, they said.

In August, soon after the start of the booster shot campaign, the Health Ministry presented research showing a clear correlation between a community's economic situation and receptiveness to the vaccine campaign. The study found that 53 percent of the unvaccinated people in Israel were from communities with a low socioeconomic ranking, 31 percent lived in Arab towns and 16 percent lived in ultra-Orthodox towns.

Four months ago, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said that the most vaccinated communities in Israel were the very well-off Savyon and Kfar Shmaryahu, and the least vaccinated were the Bedouin towns of Hura and Kseifa. “The stronger the community, the better-off, the more connected – the higher the rate of vaccination," Horowitz said then. "The less the community is connected – the percentage of those vaccinated is lower."

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