Why Israel Offers Hope Amidst Surge in Covid-19 Cases

·4-min read

As India gets into desperation mode with rising Covid cases, the tiny nation of Israel with its vaccination success is offering a powerful gleam of hope to the world.

The country has already vaccinated over 60 per cent of its population with at least the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

And the results are showing – infections have plummeted to a low of around 300 new cases a day from a scary high of over 8,000 daily infections, in mid-January this year.

Daily deaths which earlier hovered around 50 a day in the same period was down to an average of 7 casualties per day, by the last week of March. Moreover, the country has reported zero Covid-19 related deaths, at least on three days, between March 25-31, 2021.

It had over 83,000 thousand active cases on January 20 this year, which is down to little above 6,000 till Saturday.

The country of roughly 9 million people started vaccinating its citizens from December 19 last year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was first to receive the jab at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv on Live TV, thereby commencing operation "Give a Shoulder".

Praising the vaccination achievement in Israel, Ashish K Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, US and a leading expert on infectious diseases, in a tweet said, "high levels of vaccinations really can bring this pandemic under control."

He said, "About 75%-80% of adults in Israel have gotten at least 1 shot. Vaccinations have slowed way down. But infections continue to drop (down 80% in the last 2 weeks alone)".

According to data compiled by the University of Oxford, 5.25 million Israelis have been jabbed for at least 1 dose of the vaccine, while 55.5% or 4.8 million of its over 16 population have been fully inoculated against deadly Coronavirus in the last 14 weeks.

Reports from the country says that life is returning to pre-Covid level in the country. With few restrictions still in place restaurants and cultural venues have once again opened to the public. Travel inside the country is mostly free of coronavirus limitations, especially for the vaccinated, according to a Times of Israel report.

However, despite its vaccination achievement, Israel hasn't let its guard down. The country is using Green Passes to regulate public movement. Anyone fully vaccinated is eligible for the pass, the validity of which remains for six months effective the week after receiving the second dose. For recovered coronavirus patients the validity of the pass is till 30th June, 2021.

Israel's success story did not come overnight. It was among the handful of nations to negotiate vaccine doses much in advance with potential manufacturing companies. In the second week of November 2020, it inked a deal for 8 million doses with Pfizer Inc, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was enough to cover around half of Israel’s population.

Israel is followed by UK with 46.1% of British population having received at least one jab till Wednesday. Chile, Bahrain and the United States with vaccination rates of 36.3%, 30.7% and 30.4% respectively are at the third, fourth and fifth position globally, according to data compiled by the University of Oxford.

Explaining Israel's achievement, Ruti Winterstein, Head of Office (Israel) at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change wrote: "Israel is reaping the rewards of early negotiations with the vaccine manufacturers, which included early delivery schedules (and allegedly a willingness to pay more than market price)."

Further, Winterstein attributed country's experienced, highly skilled, community-based universal health-care system, its tech-based efficiencies, and effective public communications, for its runaway accomplishment in vaccination.

Israel's success story comes at a time when India is witnessing a massive surge in new Coronavirus infections. Around 90,000 fresh cases were reported on Saturday, the biggest single day jump in almost six months, with Maharashtra being the biggest contributor.

India, with over 1.3 billion population, began its inoculation drive — the world's largest vaccination exercise — on January 16 this year. 3 crore healthcare and frontline workers were first in line to be inoculated against the deadly disease. However due to vaccine hesitancy and other factors, the country had a relatively slow start and it took few weeks for the drive to pick up pace.

By Saturday evening, according to provisional numbers given by the Union Health Ministry, the country has administered over 70.4 million doses, of which over 64.4 million people have received at least one dose of the two doses of the vaccine. Over 10 million people have been fully vaccinated, government data says.

The calculation based on the above numbers say that India has been vaccinating an average of 9 lakh people per day for the last 78 days. This number is much higher than Israel's vaccination drive, which on an average vaccinated 1 lakh people daily since the inception of its Covid-19 immunization drive.

However, given India's sheer size, her population, awareness level and skewed resources, more needs to be done to make the country free from the deadly infection, which so far has resulted in over 1.6 lakh deaths and above 12 million infections.