More than 1.6 million people worldwide have died from the coronavirus. In Israel, over 350,000 people have been infected and almost 3,000 have died from it. With only 30,000 letters in its genetic code, the virus has presented a challenge different from any the human race has faced so far, and fundamentally changed routine life around the world.
The ongoing failures in managing the health and economic crises in Israel are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s doing. His boastful and unfeeling conduct has led to needless victims and cumulative damage from the disease, and the economic crisis it brought with it will be felt in Israel for years to come.
But now humanity sees the light at the end of the tunnel. The work of scientists the world over has led to the development of innovative vaccines against the virus, only 11 months after cracking its genetic code. Prof. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Ozlem Tureci, who were born to Turkish immigrant families in Germany and developed the technology behind the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, are a fine example of science without borders in the 21st century. Their achievement is built on the work of men and women of science throughout the world, who brought about previous scientific breakthroughs, from cracking the genetic code to developing the tiny bubble of protective fat to get the vaccine to the body’s cells.
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The vaccine received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the weekend. The global scientific community did the unbelievable and in less than a year gave us the means to overcome the pandemic and prevent millions of deaths. But the logistical, social and cultural challenges are still enormous. Until the population is vaccinated, many more people might die because the pandemic is being poorly handled, and because of the irresponsibility of those who refuse to be vaccinated, thus put themselves and those around them at risk.
Israel is a small, wealthy and well-connected country with a high-level community health care system. We have the chance to be among the first countries in the world to immunize a significant percentage of residents – and to start to see the end of the pandemic.
Netanyahu did not develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, but he did pledge to provide Israelis with millions of doses. The government must see to it that the vaccine is properly delivered to health maintenance organizations, which must oversee a well-orchestrated immunization operation the likes of which have never been conducted here before. But the public also has a great responsibility: The day after the pandemic will arrive sooner if everyone does his or her civic duty and gets vaccinated when their turn comes.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.