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IDF could be used to administer vaccines to public

Army has already been a key player in Israel's COVID-19 response

Israeli army Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a IDF lab in central Israel on July 15, 2020. (Photo: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Sources in the medical branch of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed this week that the Alon Coronavirus Command Center is being considered as the future location for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public. 

Discussions with the Ministry of Health are reportedly ongoing at this time, though no final decision has been made.

The Alon Command Center was established by the IDF Home Front Command to help civilian authorities handle issues related to the pandemic.  

The government of Israel has secured rights to purchase several different vaccine options from pharmaceutical companies in Russia, the U.S. and Europe, with the first doses scheduled to arrive by the end of this year and maybe even as early as this week. 

However, polls show that the general Israeli public has a tremendous amount of anxiety and hesitation about the vaccine. Israeli’s are particularly concerned about the Russian vaccine — dubbed Sputnik 5 — which the Russian Health Ministry has already begun distributing to the Russian public, despite having rushed through trials.

Considerations regarding the vaccine are being made against the backdrop of yet another surge in COVID-19 infections in Israel, leading to fears that a third full national lockdown may soon go into effect. The cabinet already voted this week to begin a nightly curfew from Wednesday that will last at least three weeks.

The IDF has played a key role in the fight against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, providing backup to Israel’s civilian health sector to speed up and enhance testing and treatments, as well as developing its own unique tracking system, to identify people who have had contact with a known infected person.

While the IDF spent much of this year maintaining operational readiness in the face of the pandemic, it has also faced ongoing, dynamic regional security concerns including threats from Iran, the fallout from Syria’s ongoing civil war and cross-border attacks from both the southern and northern borders.

Nevertheless, some IDF officers, especially from the medical and engineering corps, said that activities to support the civilian health sector have provided valuable training experience for the troops. For example, constructing new infrastructure under duress when required to build two extra wards at Rambam Hospital in Haifa this fall.  

During the pandemic, the IDF also took a direct role in managing hotels which were converted to quarantine wards for incoming travellers and those requiring isolation. The IDF has also worked with Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency service, to operate a 24/7 call center, providing invaluable information and instructions to the public about the disease.

The Alon Command Center is comprised of four departments with IDF soldiers from non-combat positions, including the education and logistics corps. In addition, hundreds of volunteers from Israeli society are able to address the unique needs of their communities, including Arab Israeli, Bedouin and ultra-Orthodox sectors.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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