While Israel Is Still Far From COVID Herd Immunity, the Army Is About to Make History

By the end of the week, more than half of Israelis will have been inoculated with at least the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. A full 36 percent have already received both doses. Some 72 percent of the over-16 population have been vaccinated or soon will be.

About 90 percent of the over-50s, the main risk group, have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. The inoculation rate remains high at about 140,000 a day on average. The bad example of the vaccination resisters and the spreaders of fake news has largely been marginalized.

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– How the JNF’s Blue Box settled beyond the Green Line – LISTEN

How the JNF’s Blue Box settled beyond the Green Line – LISTEN

This good news comes on top of February’s decline in mortality, hospitalizations and positive tests, all of them a product of the vaccination program. (At the same time, a steep decline in the infection rate is being recorded in many countries where vaccination campaigns have barely begun.)

Only at midweek, probably due to the easing of the lockdown two weeks ago, did the number of new daily infections begin to rise moderately, while the R number, the number of people that one infected person will infect, again approached 1. The main difficulty lies in the Arab community, where the infection rate is climbing steadily and the response to the vaccination project is 20 percentage points lower than in the overall population.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine hasn't been approved for under-16s, otherwise Israel could have striven for herd immunity already after Passover at the end of March. But the fact that almost 30 percent of the population can’t be vaccinated, along with the low percentage of the adult population hesitating, means Israel will remain below herd status until the vaccine’s safety instructions are amended.

The forecasts for the spread of the virus in the coming weeks range from pessimistic to optimistic extremes; the gap is based on what will happen to the young people. This week some of the restrictions at schools were lifted, and more of the same is expected in two weeks.

The fact that a year after the first person ill with COVID-19 arrived in Israel the education authorities haven’t advanced solutions for alternative learning means the children are returning to relatively crowded classes, with lax division into “capsules” and without a good testing system in place. Hence the concern that the infection rate among children and adolescents will rise rapidly.