Opinion: This is How Israel Leads the World in Vaccination Campaign

Israelis receive the second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, in Netanya, Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

By Meir Shlomo, the Ambassador of Israel to Thailand 

Coronavirus knows no borders, as has become all too clear, and countries across the globe are all facing the same challenges. From the outset of the pandemic, Israel emerged as a leading nation in the global fight against coronavirus, learning from the experiences of others and sharing its own with the world.

It made the tough choices early on such as closing borders. Israel now boasts the highest per capita vaccination rate of any country in the world, outpacing all others by far.

Israel began its vaccination drive in late December 2020, and within just the first two days of the campaign, nearly 30,000 Israelis were already given their first dose. Now, just a few weeks later, over 2.6 million Israelis have received their vaccination shot, and the country is on track to vaccinate all citizens over the age of 16 by the end of March.

Not only citizens but also foreign residents are vaccinated, including the Thai Ambassador to Israel, who was vaccinated few days ago.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poses for photos with the 2,000,000th Israeli who received coronavirus vaccine. Image: Israel’s Government Press Office

This speedy and ambitious target has been made possible through a new deal that Israel inked with pharmaceutical companies. Dubbed ‘Operation Back to Life’, Israel is set to receive ongoing shipments of the vaccine over the coming months, which will enable the country to reach its bold target and become one of the first countries in the world to exit from the coronavirus crisis.

Moreover, by sharing its statistical data with Pfizer and the world, Israel will also play a key role in demonstrating the efficacy of the vaccine and developing global strategies to overcome the pandemic. 

In fact, Israel’s small population of some nine million and its highly efficient public health system mean that the country is going to play an essential role for pharmaceutical companies.

The success and experience of our vaccination campaign will be used to provide the critical information that pharmaceutical companies need in order to make the vaccine even more effective for other countries. By being the first country in the world to vaccinate its entire population, Israel will serve as the world’s key experimental subject.

A health care professional prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel’s universal healthcare system is globally recognized for its efficiency and effectiveness. Israel has developed a sophisticated and high-quality level of individual patient care, and all Israeli citizens and permanent residents are guaranteed healthcare under the country’s National Health Insurance Law.

All Israelis can choose from four comprehensive not-for-profit health plans that provide a standardized basket of medical services, and each provider (“Kupot Holim”) must accept all residents regardless of age or state of health. Combined, there are thousands of clinics spread across the country, ensuring that each and every local community is served.

Moreover, its national healthcare services enjoy a uniquely advanced level of digitization, which will make Israel’s data particularly important to pharmaceutical companies. Israel’s extensive national network of medical services lies within the Ministry of Health’s purview. 

It was this comprehensive system of doctors, nurses, and medics that rapidly mobilized towards vaccinating the entire country within a matter of months. In fact, Israel’s constant and daily battle with existential threats meant that it was especially well-placed to handle emergencies. The entirety of Israel’s national systems thus coalesced around the crisis. The Prime Minister securing a steady supply of vaccinations.

An Israeli woman receives the second Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a private nursing home, in Ramat Gan, Israel, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Kupot Holim – the Health providers, are the main organizations to administer the vaccines to most of the Israeli population. They are also supported by Magen David Adom – Israel’s national emergency response service – assumed responsibility of vaccinating the residents and employees of nursing homes.

The IDF – Israeli Defence Forces – administrated quarantine hotels and supplied food to families in lockdown at the height of the pandemic, and now dedicating its own paramedics and military reserves to the vaccination push. It is thus that Israel holds the world record for its vaccination rate and will be able to rapidly complete its inoculation drive. 

Every vaccinated citizen will receive a special “Green Passport” which will facilitate traveling around the globe, and hopefully other countries will adopt similar policies which will ease the movement of vaccinated passengers.

It is Israel’s hope that this year, at the end of March, on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren will be able to gather around the same table once again and celebrate together in joy and relief. 

About the author
Meir Shlomo is the Ambassador of Israel to Thailand.