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Israel leads in vaccinations

Israel's vaccination drive is in high gear, operating seven days a week, 24 hours per day, including on the Sabbath.
An Israeli military medic prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the medical centre of Tzrifin military base in the Israeli town of Rishon Lezion on December 28, 2020. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Health Ministry director Hezi Levi said this morning that there are currently enough vaccines to immunize a significant segment of the Israeli population. Speaking with Ben Caspit and Yinon Magal on 103FM radio station, Hezi noted that the authorities are working to receive more doses. Israel has so far administered only the Pfizer vaccinations, with Moderna vaccinations expected to arrive to the country in the first quarter of 2021.

Hezi spoke shortly after the ministry announced a new daily record in coronavirus vaccination numbers: Sunday saw 98,916 shots administered, bringing the total number of Israelis vaccinated to 379,000. Per capita, Israel has just slightly passed Bahrain and most European countries.

Hezi said in the radio interview that the numbers are "nice achievements, but we all want to increase," adding that the health minister's directive is "to vaccinate about 150,000 a day — and I believe we will be able to achieve that."

Quite a few Israelis, including physicians, had expressed concerns over the safety of the vaccine, saying they did not intend to get vaccinated. But the numbers so far show that many Israelis are enthusiastic and eager to get it.

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, "We are starting the week with gigantic news. I spoke over the weekend with the heads of the companies that are providing us with the vaccines and I told them that our goal by next weekend is to reach 150,000 vaccines a day. Afterward, another 4.5 million will come and another 4.5 million, but this is the critical stage and we can accomplish it."

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein tweeted yesterday, "Israel is the first country in the world to repackage it so that vaccination can reach end locations quickly with maximum accessibility to the public. Sela workers are operating in an environment of two degrees [Celsius]! This way we are sure to reach every location in Israel without losing precious vaccines. This is how Israel is leading the world in administrating vaccinations!"

However, the number of Israelis infected by the virus is still rising, with another 3,498 virus cases diagnosed on Sunday. The death toll now stands at 3,226 since the outbreak of the virus in Israel.

Yesterday evening, the country entered its third national lockdown since the start of the pandemic. The government has officially called for a lockdown of two weeks, but health officials have warned it will likely go on for a month. Regulations now bar Israelis from entering another person’s home and restrict movements to one kilometer from home, with some exceptions. Nonessential shops are closed. Restaurants are closed and not even allowed to sell takeout. Schools in "red" cities are also closed.

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