Israel’s Covid-19 Vaccinations Hold Lessons For U.S.

Small country has inoculated nearly 20% of its population in three weeks, in world’s fastest rollout. Israel’s Covid-19 Vaccinations Hold Lessons For U.S.

Israel has rolled out the fastest Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the world, inoculating nearly 20% of its population in three weeks. The small country—with roughly nine million people, about the same as New York City—now aims to inoculate the majority of its population by March.

While Israel’s vaccination campaign is relatively simple compared with the mass mobilizations needed by countries such as the U.S. that have many more people spread over a greater sweep of geography, the effort offers some clear lessons.

Dispatch Smaller Vaccine Shipments

The Pfizer Inc. -BioNTech SE vaccine must be administered within five days after it leaves the main storage center and within six hours after a diluent is added before five to six doses are extracted from a vial.

To cope with that short shelf life and to reach less-populated and isolated areas, Israel—with Pfizer’s approval—devised a system to split the company’s 1,000-dose packages into smaller batches of a few hundred each. Workers repackage the vials in workstations equipped with massive freezers.

Israel, like most other countries, is giving priority to medical professionals, people over 60 and those with high-risk conditions as vaccine recipients. But to make sure no vials are wasted, authorities are also allowing vaccine centers to dole out surplus doses to anyone who shows up.

Use Dedicated Vaccination Sites

Many of the vaccine sites are at large venues such as sports arenas or are being set up in tents inside cities, away from clinics and hospitals, allowing more people immediate access. These dedicated vaccination centers are staffed by doctors and nurses from public health-care providers, making staffing easier. Israel’s four health maintenance organizations are also operating mobile vaccine stations and a drive-through site to increase access.
Refine Administrative Acts

Israel’s health-care providers are reaching out early and often to those eligible to receive vaccines, via applications, text messages and websites.

Israel, which is providing the vaccine free of charge to everyone, is also developing a passport system that would allow those who have been vaccinated to show a certificate on their cellphone to avoid quarantining after travel and to access places such as event halls, arenas and restaurants.

Reach Out To Minority Groups

Ahead of the vaccine rollout, public-health officials lobbied the country’s minority groups that would be less disposed to take the vaccine: the ultra-Orthodox and Israel’s Arab population, which together make up about 33% of the population.

Public-health officials met with ultra-Orthodox rabbis and leaders in Arab communities to get them to back the vaccination campaign. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a special effort to visit Arab towns as part of his public-relations campaign.

Public-health officials traveled to ultra-Orthdox towns to meet with rabbis and dispatched Arabic speakers to Arab towns to meet with health professionals. They outlined all of the available information to indicate that the vaccine is safe and effective. They secured the sign-off of the ultra-Orthodox leadership, which issued a statement urging anyone who could to get the vaccine.

Updated: 2-8-2021

Israeli Vaccine Campaign Took Three Weeks To Curb Spread

Israel, with the highest proportion of citizens vaccinated against Covid-19 in the world, found it took three weeks for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE shot to start curbing new cases and hospitalizations.

Researchers in the Middle Eastern country reported preliminary observations Wednesday from a national immunization program that began Dec. 20. Improvement in the number of new cases and hospitalized patients occurred 21 days following the vaccination campaign, the scientists said, noting that the real-life effect of vaccines may take longer than what was demonstrated in clinical trials.

Very exciting: evidence of impact of #vaccine in #Israel – orange line is unvaccinated; blue vaccinated
— Global Biosecurity (@Globalbiosec)
February 5, 2021

“To our knowledge, no study thus far has studied the impact of the vaccination campaign on the population level and its effect on the patterns of pandemic dynamics,” scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot said. “As Israel is one of the first countries to implement a vaccination campaign on this magnitude, we believe that this quantification may be of major interest for many countries worldwide.”

Israel’s vaccination drive began just before a more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 strain emerged, fueling infections and leading to a third lockdown on Jan. 8. As of Tuesday, 28% of Israelis — including three-quarters of those 60 years or older — had either received two doses of the vaccine or had recovered from an infection. At the peak, 229,508 doses were administered in one day.

Efforts to estimate the true real-world effectiveness of the vaccine have been hampered by disease dynamics and social-economic discrepancies, according to Dvir Aran, an assistant professor in the biology department at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

“The vaccine is highly effective in reducing cases, hospitalizations and deaths” – Dvir Aran

Using tallies of cases and hospitalized patients among vaccinated individuals, Aran found the shot was 66% to 85% effective in reducing the number of SARS-CoV-2 positive cases and was more than 90% effective in reducing severe hospitalizations, he said Friday in a separate paper, published before peer-review and publication.

“There is little doubt that the vaccine is highly effective in reducing cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Aran concluded.

The number of cases among vaccinated individuals reported to Israel’s Ministry of Health, as cited by Aran are detailed below:

Efficacy might differ slightly from the clinical test data in real-life settings for several reasons, the Weizmann researchers said. Logistics, including the refrigeration, storage, transportation and administration of the vaccines during a rapid rollout may be imperfect, lowering effectiveness, they said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be stored at -80°C to -60°C.

The researchers also noted that older people — who were prioritized earlier in Israel’s vaccination campaign — potentially had a reduced or delayed response to vaccination due to age-related deterioration in their immune function.

Infectious Variant

It’s also possible that the efficacy of the vaccine is reduced in the face of some of the emerging virus strains, including the B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the U.K. that’s now prevalent in Israel, and the 501Y.V2 first observed in South Africa, the researchers said.

They also noted that vaccinated individuals may alter their behavior and decrease adherence to public health prevention guidance, such as physical distancing and wearing face masks, thereby increasing viral transmission.

“Moreover, viral transmission may also occur in the vaccination areas themselves,” the researchers said. “The vaccination sites should be large and ventilated in order to decrease the probability of transmission on site.”

Parts of Israel with higher infection rates and a lower socioeconomic status had lower uptake even with adequate vaccination availability, the researchers found, noting a need to encourage citizens in these areas and to make shots even more accessible there.

The researchers concluded that more studies aimed at assessing the effectiveness of vaccination on reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are needed both on the individual and on the population level with larger follow-up and in additional populations.

Israel’s Covid-19 Vaccinations Hold,Israel’s Covid-19 Vaccinations Hold,Israel’s Covid-19 Vaccinations Hold,

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