On Wednesday, the Israeli Health Ministry announced that beginning today, COVID-19 vaccines would be available to all Israelis over the age of 16. In the last two days of the nationwide lockdown, which may or may not be extended, despite mass vaccinations that have surpassed every country across the globe, cases in Israel have still continued to surge.
As per the last official set of data 3,237,163 people in Israel had received the first dose of Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine and 1,855,785 had received two doses, according to Health Ministry data. This being said, the spread of the virus still stands at an alarming rate. According to Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, the main culprit is the so-called U.K. variant of the COVID-19 virus, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said constituted 80 percent of all new confirmed infections, up from 70 percent just days ago.
At a joint press conference with Edelstein on Tuesday, Netanyahu said that Israel was in a race between the vaccination campaign and the virus variant, and said that prioritizing for inoculation those over the age of 50 will be key to successfully exiting the lockdown. “Ninety-seven percent of those who have died are in the 50-and-over age group. Almost 100 percent of the deceased are there,” he said. Ninety-three percent of serious cases of infection fall in this group, as well, he added.
He thus proposed as a “national goal” vaccinating at least 90 percent of those in this age group within a two-week span, noting that this was achievable, as 77 percent of them have already been vaccinated. He vowed to present the proposal, along with a lockdown exit plan, to the Cabinet. “If we take control of the disease in these ages, if we succeed in vaccinating and protecting the people in this group, to a large extent we will be on the way to victory over the coronavirus,” said Netanyahu.
Talking about the country exiting lockdown, Netanyahu said, “I reiterate: We will exit cautiously for the exact reason you have seen here and what is happening around the world. We are one people. We will overcome this. I call on everyone: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, religious, secular, everybody: Go and get vaccinated. But first of all, I call on everyone over 50: Go and get vaccinated immediately.”