Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Netanyahu touts Pfizer deal after 20% of Israelis get Covid jab


One in five Israelis have been given first doses of coronavirus vaccines, roughly ten times higher than the UK and US, with the country aiming to have inoculated all eligible age groups within two months.

Israel’s lighting-fast vaccine campaign had been expected to slow down this week as the first batches of Pfizer/BioNTech doses ran low.

However, on Saturday night, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he had secured a commitment from the pharmaceutical company to bring forward deliveries in return for Israel providing “statistical data” – effectively making the country a mass test case to see how vaccines might halt the pandemic.

“We will be the first country in the world to emerge from the coronavirus,” Netanyahu said.

“The agreement that I have made with Pfizer will enable us to vaccinate all citizens of Israel over the age of 16 by the end of March and perhaps even earlier,” he added. Later, while receiving his second dose of the vaccine, Netanyahu said the country could do it within two months.

“As part of the agreement with Pfizer, we decided that Israel will be a global model state for the rapid vaccination of an entire country,” he said, adding that Israel will share data with the world that will “help develop strategies for defeating the coronavirus”. Pfizer did not independently confirm the deal.

More than 1.8m Israelis – around 20% of the 9m population – have received their first jab, with initial doses focused on over-60s, healthcare workers, carers and high-risk people. With more shipments arriving on Sunday, it is expected that teachers and younger age groups will be given access in the coming days.

As well as being a small country by size and population, Israel’s vaccine success has been attributed to its highly-digitalised healthcare system and a strong public awareness campaign. An election set for 23 March has also given Netanyahu a massive incentive to get the country back to some form of normality quickly.

Yet while speeding ahead with vaccinations, Israel is currently in lockdown as it suffers a dangerous rise in infections. The health ministry is reporting around 8,000 new cases a day, with record numbers in a critical condition.

Graphic

The country is also facing criticism for not offering vaccines to millions of Palestinians living under its occupation. Last week, Amnesty International said the disparity was an “illustration of how Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones”.

Israel says the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule and is seeking vaccines independently, and the militant group Hamas, which rules in Gaza, are responsible for their populations.





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