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Netanyahu gets first anti-COVID shot in Israel as long promoted vaccination campaign kicks off

Prime minister, health minister became first and second Israelis to receive the COVID vaccine in an effort to urge the public to follow suit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first person in Israel to receive the anti-coronavirus vaccine on Dec. 19, 2020. (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein became the first and second Israelis to get the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday night - on national television no less - in a campaign to encourage every citizen to follow suit.

"One small shot for man, a giant leap for mankind," he said after getting the shot in his right arm at Sheba Medical Center. "I hope everyone follows us."

He said the vaccines will make possible the quick return of the Israeli economy including restaurants and gyms which have been closed since September and cultural events which have been closed longer still. The borders have also been closed to tourists and foreigners since March.

"This is a very emotional moment," Netanyahu said. "Grandchildren have been waiting to to hug their grandchildren - not on zoom, but a real hug."

One of the primary reasons for Netanyahu's public vaccination is to encourage a disbelieving Israeli public loathe to rush for the shot, of which he has purchased millions. One poll shows that only about 20 percent of the public is willing to try the COVID shot.

"The vaccine is safe," Edelstein insisted as he was preparing to get the vaccine next to the prime minister.

Netanyahu and Edelstein have been pushing a program of mass inoculation, which starts tomorrow and is aiming, for starters, that 2 million Israelis will get vaccinated by the end of January. The Health Ministry has been airing commercials hailing the vaccine's safety and is in the process of establishing a command center on social media to remove posts that disparage the vaccine. Such posts could result in criminal charges under the new policy being worked out.

Israel is also pushing forward a "green passport" in which people who have received both shots of the COVID vaccine will have access to places that unvaccinated people will not including events, public places and planes.

This is happening as the coronavirus cabinet convenes an emergency meeting to consider stricter lockdowns as positive infections have increased in the past week.

On top of that, the government is three days away from being automatically dissolved and the country going to new elections.

While Netanyahu was getting his shot, thousands of protestors were gathered outside his residence in Jerusalem as has become a weekly occurrence for the past few months. Demonstrators want to see the prime minister ousted because of corruption charges he is facing and what is perceived as his poor handling of COVID lockdowns that have devastated the economy.

He has also been accused of using the vaccine for political purposes.

After his live vaccination he said a return to normalcy is contingent on the public's getting the vaccine.

Minutes before he took the shot, he hailed this as a "great day for the State of Israel."

"We have been fighting for almost a year against the most severe pandemic that humanity has known in 100 years," he said . "I have asked to be vaccinated first, together with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, in order to serve as a personal example and to encourage all of you to be vaccinated. We can exit this together and we will soon get started. I believe in this vaccine. Tens of thousands of people have received it successfully. The best scientists have approved it."

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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