Covid-19 vaccination lessons from Israel

17 March, 2021

The ECCT’s Technology committee hosted a webinar on the topic of “Covid-19 vaccination practice: Lessons from Israel” featuring guest speaker Dr Manfred Green, Professor of Public Health at the University of Haifa in Israel. Read the full article here.

The speaker began with an overview of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel. The country has so far had about 800,000 cases and around 6,800 deaths. It was one of the first countries to start a vaccination programme (in December 2020), using the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine, which has led to a steep drop in the number of daily cases to around 2,000. According to Green, 73% of adults have had at least one dose and 58% have already had two doses of the vaccine.

Israel’s vaccine rollout has been successful mainly because the country was very proactive in signing contracts for vaccines even before they had been approved. Authorities had options on several vaccines, including Pfizer’s, which allowed them to get access to early production. The second reason for success is a well-organised healthcare system. Healthcare authorities have contact details of all citizens and sent personalised messages to every citizen on where to get their vaccinations.

On a question as to whether or not it is possible to eradicate the virus, Dr Green said that this would be much more difficult than with the original SARS virus since the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes a lot of asymptomatic cases and has spread rapidly and widely. Moreover, while the current vaccines have been shown to be fairly effective and those vaccinated are producing antibodies to fight mutations, it remains a question if the vaccines will be effective against all new variants of the virus. In addition, it is always difficult to eradicate viruses completely. Dr Green noted that smallpox is the only disease that has been completely eradicated while polio and rubella are close to eradication. However, measles which had also been close to eradication, has seen recent spikes due to drops in immunisation.

Another issue that will not be known for a while is how long vaccines will last. There may be a need for booster shots or repeat vaccinations periodically.

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