After Israel was looking like a model nation in combating the coronavirus, vaccinating people so quickly that it’s running out of vaccine, it’s now experiencing a new spike in coronavirus cases.
The Washington Post reported that Israel had vaccinated a higher proportion of its population against COVID-19 than any other country, and it was vaccinating its people so quickly that it was “outstripping its supply” of the vaccine.
As Reuters reported on Jan. 7, 17% of Israel’s population has received the first dose of vaccine—70% of those are 60 and older—in a vaccination campaign that started Dec. 19. That’s despite a lagging turnout among Arabs, who make up 21% of Israel’s population, and the Palestinian population concentrated in Jerusalem.
“I will not be vaccinated because I don’t know what is in there. No one explained it to me,” Marouf Alyino of East Jerusalem told Reuters. “Everyone is looking at Facebook and social media, where we hear about someone dying (after getting vaccinated).”
The New York Times noted that the collective reluctance among Palestinians to receive the vaccine isn’t the only challenge. According to the newspaper, the Palestinian Authority, which runs its own healthcare system in the occupied West Bank, has asked Israel for vaccines, prompting a debate over Israel’s responsibility to the Palestinians at a time when its own vaccine supplies are dwindling.
The article also notes that Israel’s vaccine supplies are running so low the nation may need to slow its vaccination program in the next week unless they can obtain reinforcements from drug companies.
Despite those efforts, Israel is in the midst of a current spike in cases, with more than 8,000 new cases a day reported in early Janaury and a grim projection of as many as 46,000 new cases per day by February without implementing lockdown measures.
The new more transmissible variant of coronavirus, which was first tracked in the U.K., is partially to blame. The New York Times observed that “at least 30 cases of the variant have been identified in Israel by special sampling, scattered across 14 different towns and cities, but officials and experts said those tests were aimed at identifying the presence of the variant, not quantifying it, and the actual number of cases was likely much higher.”
“We are at the height of a global pandemic that is spreading at record speed with the British mutation,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement, prefacing a two-week lockdown affecting schools and most businesses. “Every hour we delay, the quicker the virus is spreading, and it will exact a very heavy price.”
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