Covid-19 Vaccination: Experiences from Israel
By Dickens Ngunya
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2), commonly known as the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is claimed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has spread to all corners of the globe. This virus has claimed the lives of over three million people worldwide and has changed the optics through which we look at public health both locally and internationally. The novel coronavirus disease has demonstrated that individual states have the onus to mitigate, manage, plan, and implement strategies tailored for their specific situations in future pandemics. Vaccination against this virus was an urgent and best strategy to be driven by states and Israel’s campaign is a case in point.
The State of Israel, located in the Middle Eastern region, is home to approximately 9.3 million people. Its first Covid-19 positive case was reported in February 2020 and has so far registered a total of 839, 748 positive cases. The registered total fatalities currently stand at 6,428. How did Israel maintain low levels of infections and fatalities? According to Bruce Rosen et al., several factors aided Israel’s vaccination campaign ranging from their small and relatively young population to the timely purchase of vaccine doses, availability of health care providers, sophisticated electronic health records, and centralized pandemic response.
Targeting individuals aged 60 years and above significantly reduced the vaccine doses they required as only twelve percent are older than 65 years. This enabled Israel to liaise with the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, and purchase enough vaccine doses for the target bracket. The centralized pandemic response by the national government gave them the flexibility in financing, purchasing, and distributing the vaccine doses to the population efficiently and transparently.
Clear structural medical guidelines from the Israeli Ministry of Health ensured the timely vaccination scheduling and inoculation of those targeted since December 2020. The elderly and those with preexisting conditions were to be vaccinated under their respective nonprofit health plans while Magen David Adom – Israeli’s national medical emergency services – was tasked with vaccinating nursing home residents. Nurses who administered the doses as well as other front-line health workers received their vaccination under the medical institutions they work.
Israel boasts of its sophisticated technology not only in the military but also in the medical field. Their electronic health database was able to point out the locations and conditions of the high-risk persons. Every individual in the vulnerable groups was able to schedule their vaccination appointments online and those who were not tech-savvy were assisted by family members since most households have several family members or occupants who came through in accompanying the sick and the aged to the vaccination sites.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, ninety-one percent of Israelis over the age of seventy have been fully vaccinated with the two recommended Pfizer – BioNTech vaccine doses which are scheduled twenty-one days apart to enhance its efficacy . In addition, over sixty percent of the total population has been fully inoculated. The World Health Organization (WHO) argues that herd immunity in a given population would be guaranteed once at least seventy percent of the people have been fully vaccinated. This is because when more than two-thirds of the people are immune anyone else who may contract the virus can only spread it to one more individual, probably not vaccinated but its growth would be significantly minimized.
Israel’s vaccination campaign has boosted the country’s hopes of returning to normalcy. With the growing number of those being vaccinated, the positive cases have been dwindling since June and zero daily deaths are being registered since April this year. Restrictions on indoor gatherings have been eased and the use of face masks in closed spaces is no longer considered necessary. The Israeli Ministry of Health are still on their toes however as the emergence of various strains of the novel Coronavirus could derail the gains of their country in fighting the virus while at the same time claiming innocent lives.
Dickens Ngunya is a final year International Relations Student at Daystar University, Kenya. His interests lie in International Law, Politics, Foreign Policy and Security Studies. Pragmatism and conservative realism are his viewpoints in analyzing global affairs. A recipient of the Gold and Silver President’s Award Scheme Certificates.
 Bruce Rosen, Ruth Waltzberg, & Avi Israeli. Israel’s rapid rollout of vaccinations for COVID-19. Israel Journal of Health Policy Research. 26 January 2021.
 Eyal Leshem & Annelis Wilder-Smith. COVID-19 impact in Israel and a way out of the Pandemic. THE LANCET. Vol. 397. p.1783-1785. Accessed from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)01018-7/fulltext
 Bruce Rosen, Sarah Dine, Nadav Davidovitch. Lessons in COVID-19 Vaccination from Israel. Health Affairs. March 18, 2021. Accessed from: https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20210315.476220/full/
 Rachel Schraer. Covid: ‘Israel may be reaching herd immunity’. BBC NEWS. 14 April 2021. Accessed from: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-56722186#:~:text=A%20leading%20Israeli%20doctor%20believes,have%20immunity%20are%20indirectly%20protected.
Amazing! The lessons from Israel are rich and could go a long way in helping other nations in COVID-19 Mitigation.