Israel Offers 3rd Pfizer Dose to Elderly Residents, But How Many Will Take It?
07:58 GMT 31.07.2021 (Updated: 08:02 GMT 31.07.2021)
© REUTERS / AMIR COHENA medical worker prepares to administer a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a temporary Clalit Healthcare Maintenance Organization (HMO) centre, at a sports hall in Netivot, Israel February 4, 2021
© REUTERS / AMIR COHEN
In the first day of the campaign on Friday, Maccabi, one of Israel's major healthcare organisations, registered more than 10,000 requests to get the American jab. Authorities are encouraging all of the country’s 1.3 million people aged 60 and over to get another shot but the lack of urgency might keep many at home.
On Friday, Israel started to offer a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to its elderly residents, becoming the first nation to do so, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the decision a day earlier.
Step in the Right Direction?
The US Food and Drug Administration hasn't given a greenlight for the third dose yet, but Director of Communications and Government Affairs at Maccabi Healthcare Services Ido Hadari, says the Israeli PM's decision was a step in the right direction.
"In medicine, we usually look up at the FDA and once they approve something, it is considered safe. But sometimes in a war-like situation you need to take a decision fast. You need to be bold and [neglect] following the rules".
By war-like situation, Hadari means the recent spike in new coronavirus cases over the past couple of weeks. On Thursday, over 2,000 reported they were sick with the virus, pushing the overall number of patients to more than 16,000 people.
© REUTERS / Ammar AwadA technician is reflected in a surface as she works at Healthcare Maintenance Organisation (HMO) Maccabi's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) public laboratory, performing diverse and numerous tests, in Rehovot, Israel February 9, 2021.
A technician is reflected in a surface as she works at Healthcare Maintenance Organisation (HMO) Maccabi's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) public laboratory, performing diverse and numerous tests, in Rehovot, Israel February 9, 2021.
© REUTERS / Ammar Awad
Although those numbers are significantly lower than what they were in January, when the nation registered 10,000 daily cases, authorities are worried that the situation might spiral out of control, especially since the Delta strain that triggered the third wave is 70 percent more contagious than the initial virus.
Another factor making the authorities bite their nails is a recent study showing that a person’s antibody level becomes increasingly low five months after being administered the second jab.
No Sense of Urgency
Immediately following the decision to offer a third dose to those over 60, Hadari says more than 10,000 people submitted requests to get the shot. While he is certain the ratio of those who turn up for the appointment will be high, he also believes "it won't be 100 percent".
The reason for this, says the expert, is the complacency of the Israeli public. "The sense of urgency that we have now is much lower than what we used to have in the past [when the pandemic was at its peak - ed.]. So, if I need to gamble, I would say that Israel will need to put more efforts into engaging the crowds".
Since the outbreak of the third wave in early July, authorities have been putting maximum pressure into convincing the public to adhere to preemptive measures imposed by the government, including the wearing of masks and the reintroduction of the "green pass" that gives entry to public and private places for vaccinated individuals or those who have recovered from the virus.
They also stepped up efforts to encourage people to get vaccinated but many chose to ignore those calls. Recent weeks have seen several protests by anti-vaccination groups taking place in front of the prime minister's residence in Ramadan, central Israel.
People are fearful there is no solid research on the long-term repercussions of the vaccination. Many are questioning why vast parts of the Israel-Pfizer agreement are still hidden from the public. And now, some are also doubting whether a third dose is indeed a necessity.
Hadari acknowledges those fears. He knows the government "was taking a risk" by approving another jab. If things go wrong, they won't be able to put the blame on Pfizer or the FDA – who hasn’t approved a third dose yet. They will need to take responsibility for that decision. But the expert says he is hoping there won't be any surprises.
"We don't know about the stones that await us below the surface. We don't even know whether we will fall from the kayak. We only hope that there won't be any unexpected events".
Starting from Friday, Israel will be trying to vaccinate as many of its 1.3 million elderly residents as possible. Hadari says the Jewish state has enough vaccines to inoculate everyone who needs to get the jab, including youngsters aged 12 to 15, who are yet to receive their second dose.
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUNA medical worker vaccinates a man against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as Israel kicks off a coronavirus vaccination drive, at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) in Tel Aviv, Israel December 20, 2020
A medical worker vaccinates a man against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as Israel kicks off a coronavirus vaccination drive, at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) in Tel Aviv, Israel December 20, 2020
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUN
If the nation's medical establishments realise their vaccine supply is insufficient, they will ask the government to get them the needed amount. The authorities, says Hadari, will deliver.
Yet, that still might not be enough. "Even if we manage to vaccinate everyone, while other states won't, the economy and tourism will suffer. We need to run in one line against the virus. We cannot extinguish the fire in one place without doing the same in other places. Unity is the key to curbing the pandemic".