JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel has administered two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to more than half its population, the Health Minister said on Thursday, a global deployment that has helped the country emerge from pandemic closures.
Distribution of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine in Israel began in December, and eligibility was extended to citizens and residents over the age of 16, about 69% of the population of 9.3 million. People are considered to be fully protected one week after receiving the second injection.
In a statement announcing the milestone amid a sustained drop in new infections, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein asked citizens to “follow (health) guidelines so that the coronavirus does not return.”
He said that 50.07% of the general population, or 72.5% of the eligible population, had received both doses of the vaccine, while 55.96% of the general population had received the first dose.
Israel began easing a national blockade in late February. Most companies and schools, as well as airports, have gradually resumed their activities, with capacity limits. The fully vaccinated, and about 8.7% of Israelis who have recovered from COVID-19 with presumed immunity, receive “Green Pass” certificates from the Ministry of Health that grant access to various entertainment venues.
Israel has seen an 85% drop in daily deaths from COVID-19, a 72% decrease in critically ill patients and 86% fewer daily cases since the third peak of the pandemic in mid-January, according to the scientist from data Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. .
Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levi told Reuters he believed that all eligible Israelis could be fully vaccinated by the end of May. But some officials privately estimate that 10% of the eligible population does not intend to get vaccinated.
Israel counts the Palestinians in East Jerusalem as part of its population and has been providing them with vaccines. It has also offered vaccinations to Palestinians working in Israel and in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian health officials have launched a limited vaccination program in the West Bank and Gaza Strip using doses provided by Israel, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and the COVAX global vaccine exchange initiative.
Israel has come under international criticism for not doing more to allow Palestinian vaccines. It says the Palestinians are responsible for health measures in the autonomous areas.
A group of six Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups said they had appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to demand that the state provide vaccines to the entire Palestinian population.
“COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates in the West Bank and Gaza are increasing dramatically, but the supply of vaccines to Palestinians so far covers less than 1.5% of the population,” said one of the petitioners, Physicians for Human. Rights Israel, in a statement. statement.
A survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Surveys, released Tuesday, found that 55% of Palestinians are willing to receive the vaccine when it is available or have already received it, while 43% are unwilling.
Additional reporting by Rami Ayyub; Written by Dan Williams; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Giles Elgood and Nick Macfie