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With 77% of Israelis age 50+ vaccinated, Health Ministry accelerates plans to vaccinate entire nation

Decision comes as clinics report a slowdown in Israel’s record-setting rate of vaccination which started just over one month ago and leads the world in per-capita inoculation

Israelis receive a Covid-19 vaccine, at a sports hall turned into a Clalit Health vaccination center in Petach Tikva, Jan. 27, 2021. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In an effort to vaccinate all Israelis, the Ministry of Health decided today to open up vaccine availability to the entire population, from 16 years old, as officials mull whether to extend the current lockdown or to begin reopening certain sectors of the country in the coming days.

Israel has been on a speedy trajectory with a per-capita vaccination rate leading the world, but in recent days reports have emerged that the drive has slowed down and some unused vials have had to be discarded. Channel 12 also reported that people are failing to show up for their appointments.

With more than 3.2 million people having already received one shot and 1.8 of them fully vaccinated with two shots by Wednesday, this accounts for more than 50% of the eligible population already getting their shots.

However this is not enough, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I am proposing a national goal as the basis for our exit from the coronavirus: To vaccinate at least 90% of the 50+ age group within two weeks. This is an achievable goal because 77% of them are already vaccinated,” Netanyahu said yesterday. “We hope to complete this within the next two weeks.”

He also indicated that the vaccination rate will “enable us to gradually open the economy,” making the rollback of the lockdown contingent on vaccines.

While the Cabinet is weighing an exit strategy for this third national lockdown, which closed schools in early January, some officials are suggesting that only vaccinated teachers should be allowed to teach in classrooms when they reopen, Ynet reported, which may not be legal. According to the Health Ministry, 53% of teaching staff received the first dose of the vaccine.

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish warned against opening schools at all.

“We have to wait until Sunday and see the decrease in the serious illness in the State of Israel that has to come thanks to the vaccines. A quick opening would be a huge mistake. In my opinion, neither education nor commerce should open at this stage,” Kish said.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Lod, Yair Revivo, threatened to withhold municipal services from residents who haven’t been vaccinated — including barring children from schools.

“The Lod municipality will formulate a list of sanctions. Those who are not vaccinated will not be able to receive services from the municipality,” he said. “Their children will not be able to access the education system, assistants will not be able to work. Those who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from COVID will not be able to receive services.”

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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