Israel leads the world in vaccinations and could be done by spring

It’s not even close. The vaccination drive in Israel kicked off on December 19th with Benjamin Netanyahu getting the first shot. Less than a month later, Israel has vaccinated roughly 21 percent of the entire population:

Israel leads the world in vaccination rate per capita. It’s been less than a month since its vaccination campaign began on December 19, and more than 20 percent of the country’s population of about 9 million have already gotten the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of January 14. In total, it’s about 2 million people.

Over the past few weeks, the country delivered shots to about 150,000 people per day. Priority went to people over 60 and health workers; however, in an attempt to avoid wasting any shots that might spoil, other Israelis got the vaccine if they happened to know the right clinic or happened to be in the right place at the right time.

The goal is to push the number of shots per day up to 170,000 and if they can do that the entire population will be vaccinated by spring. All of this is happening as the virus is spreading quickly in Israel, creating a real race against time. The entire country appears eager to vaccinate enough of the population that they can reach herd immunity before the spread of the virus gets worse.

How did this happen in Israel and not elsewhere? Part of it has to do with Israeli enthusiasm to become a model for the rest of the world:

Netanyahu revealed on January 7 that Israel struck an agreement with Pfizer to exchange citizens’ data for 10 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, including a promise of shipments of 400,000-700,000 doses every week.

Under this agreement, Israel will provide details to Pfizer (as well as and the World Health Organization) about the age, gender and medical history of those receiving the jab as well as its side effects and efficacy. No identifying information will be given in order to maintain some privacy.

As Politico points out, ten million doses is nothing for Pfizer which is planning to produce more than a billion doses this year. Israel gets the vaccine and Pfizer gets a lot of useful data. But this also comes at a particular moment politically when Netanyahu is desperately in need of a win.

The Israeli governing coalition collapsed in December, leading to yet another election in March of 2021, the fourth in two years. A successful vaccination campaign, one that’s a world model, is undoubtedly a boost for Netanyahu, who can claim victory despite Israel’s larger struggle to control the pandemic and the prime minister’s own corruption scandals.

Obviously if Israel becomes the first nation to reach herd immunity or very close to it and infection numbers are dropping to nothing before the election on March 23rd that’s a big feather in Netanyahu’s cap.

For comparison purposes, things aren’t going nearly so well here in California. The state has received 2.4 million doses as of Monday but has only distributed a third of them so far. Yesterday Gov. Newsom announced a new vaccine plan, ditching a previous one that seemed to be slowing things down.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Wednesday seemed sweeping: California would open up eligibility for a coronavirus vaccine to anyone 65 or older, effectively abandoning a rollout plan that was meant to ensure that the most vulnerable would be first in line.

A day later, residents of the vast and varied state were trying to navigate what many described as vaccination chaos.

Some counties shifted gears immediately, among them Orange County, which said anyone 65 or older could book an appointment at the vaccination site it opened this week at Disneyland. But the scheduling website was quickly overwhelmed, making finding a shot seem like trying to score Taylor Swift concert tickets.

And things aren’t much better in New York:

In the city, over a million older New Yorkers started the week with optimism that they would finally gain access to the vaccine after months of fearing they would fall victim to the coronavirus. But the reality of actually getting the shots has proved to be far more maddening.

Buggy websites, multiple sign-up systems that act in parallel but do not link together and a lack of outreach are causing exasperation and exhaustion among older New Yorkers and others trying to set up vaccination appointments. It is also stymying New York’s early efforts to get the vaccine to many of the city’s most vulnerable, creating a situation that elected officials say risks exacerbating the inequalities that Covid-19 has already laid painfully bare.

Like California, New York has only distributed about a third (38%) of what it has received. The city, which has roughly the same population as Israel, is administering about 26,000 jabs per day, or rougly one-sixth of what Israel is doing.

There is one hitch in Israel. The country is taking a lot of heat for not providing vaccinations to Palestinians. Israel has stated that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for that and, more importantly, the Palestinian Authority has not asked for Israel’s help. But the argument being made is two-fold. One, Israel should provide for the Palestinians even if they are not asked because they can and, two, Israel can’t really expect to reach herd immunity if there are millions of unvaccinated Palestinians living next door, many of whom work in Israel every day.

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