Despite its early success with the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine, Israel is quickly facing a third national lockdown amid the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet blame a faster spread, first seen in the UK last month. Israeli officials confirmed four cases of the strain on December 23, days after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was an emerging problem there.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man receives a vaccination against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as Israel continues its national vaccination campaign during a third national COVID lockdown at a Maccabi Healthcare Services office in Ashdod, Israel, on December 29, 2020.
Amir Cohen | Reuters
In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Netanyahu told the ministers: "We are in a state of emergency." Ministers agreed to a lockdown due to begin Friday that closes schools and non-essential businesses, forcing residents to be within a kilometer of their homes.
It does so amid global turmoil over a slow adoption of vaccines in the US and elsewhere that Israel has largely avoided.
Tom, 69, and Judy Barrett, 67, of Marco Island wait in line early in the morning at the Lakes Park Regional Library to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Fort Myers, Florida, the United States, on Dec. 30, 2020 . 2020.
Andrew West | USAToday | Reuters
Israeli officials have boasted that the country vaccinated more people in the first nine days of its vaccination campaign than it has vaccinated all Covid infections since the pandemic began.
The country had already vaccinated around 7% of its 9.2 million inhabitants last week. The Israeli Ministry of Health plans that up to 90% of the "at risk" population will receive the second of two shots of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine within the next 25 days.
The effectiveness of its vaccination campaign has made it a potential model for the rest of the world, epidemiologists say.
Israel has an early advantage, said Dr. Itamar Grotto, Deputy Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Health and one of those responsible for the prosecution. "We have a national vaccination registry that was set up a few years ago. The whole country is in one database," he said in an exclusive interview with CNBC.
Registration was started to ensure that children get all of their recordings. This infrastructure enabled Israel to be better prepared for this outbreak than many other countries fighting the virus. Israel had a terrifying dry run for Covid-19 when it was hit by a wild-type poliovirus outbreak in 2013.
The country brought this disease under control with an intensive vaccination campaign that paved the way for today's vaccine database.
Israel's medical infrastructure offers several other advantages, he said:
Medical care in Israel is largely socialized. Israel only has four health organizations serving citizens across the country while many other nations have more competition in the system. These HMOs are all affiliated with the country's national health service, which keeps records of all Israeli citizens. The whole system will be digitized under a single national system.
Before packages containing the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived in Israel on December 9, a government-appointed panel began clarifying who would get the shots in the first wave.
Cardboard boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are being prepared for shipment at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on December 13, 2020.
Morry Gash | Pool | Reuters
At the same time, the Ministry of Health began setting up a communication and distribution system so that the vials of the vaccine could arrive immediately, he said.
Patients in the database of the first group who received the vaccine were given an appointment via email, text, or an online registration form with a date and time period to receive their shot. Regular clinics, community centers, hospitals, and some sports stadiums have been converted into vaccination centers and staffed with previously trained health care workers, he said.
Because the vaccine cannot be frozen after thawing, Israel is encouraging vaccination site managers to use any dose.
According to Grotto, there is a standby list of people who can intervene at short notice if other people fail to show up at the end of the day. Officials at distribution centers also divide the vials into smaller packages suitable for each center. This is another attempt to avoid waste.
However, the challenges facing Israel are far from over. Health officials recently confirmed that nearly 500 doses were wasted in the southern part of the country because health workers couldn't get enough people ready to come to vaccination centers.
Israel expects more deliveries from Pfizer. Business was also done with Moderna and AstraZeneca; However, these recordings have not yet been delivered. But they are expected soon. Israel is also working on its own vaccine, but there is no word on when it will be ready.