While countries around the world are now starting to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, Israel has already managed to vaccinate over a fourth of its population against the deadly virus, according to data released by the Ministry of Health. The latest figures show that over 2.43 million people in Israel have received at least one out of the two doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine — making it a frontrunner in the global vaccination race.
Since December, when the United States approved the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine for emergency use, it has administered a record 17.5 million doses of the vaccine, according to the website Our World in Data. The US is closely followed by China, where over 15 million people have been vaccinated against the disease so far. The United Kingdom, the first country to approve a vaccine, is third on the list, with 5.85 million people inoculated in the last two months alone.
Although the total number of vaccines administered is considerably higher in countries like the US and China, Israel is recording the highest number of cumulative Covid-19 vaccination doses per 100 people, the Our World in Data website shows. Since it has been able to vaccinate the highest proportion of its population, Israel’s vaccination drive has been widely regarded as a success story.
So far, Israel has reported over half a million Covid-19 cases and 4,266 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
High infection rates despite vaccination drive
But it has not been entirely smooth sailing since the country launched its vaccination drive on December 19. Despite vaccinating a significant portion of its total population, Israel continues to report high infection rates. Earlier this week, the government voted to extend the national lockdown by 10 more days, after Israel recorded its highest-ever infection rates since the pandemic first began.
The rise in cases, despite the lockdown and the vaccination drive, has largely been pinned on the more infectious virus mutations that have emerged over the last few months as well as people disregarding nationwide Covid restrictions.
Positive test results, facial paralysis after vaccination
More alarmingly, over 12,000 people who received a dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine in the country have tested positive for coronavirus, including 69 people who had even taken their second jab. The Health Ministry announced that 6.6 per cent of the 189,000 people who took Covid tests after being vaccinated tested positive, BBC reported.
In fact, Israel’s coronavirus commissioner Nachman Ash warned that a single dose of the vaccine appeared to be “less effective than we had thought”. But the Israeli Ministry of Health told BBC that Ash’s comments were “out of context and, therefore, inaccurate”. The ministry said that it was too soon to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine.
At least 13 people have also allegedly suffered from mild facial paralysis as a side effect after receiving the vaccine, Ynet reported, citing Health Ministry officials.
Israel criticised for excluding Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza from vaccination drive
Israel’s vaccine rollout was also being criticised by rights groups who say that the inoculation drive violated human rights as it excluded Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli settlers living and working in the West Bank are being inoculated in this drive but Palestinians in the region may have to wait longer for the vaccine under the COVAX facility, a global initiative led by WHO to provide the Covid-19 vaccine to vulnerable communities.