Israel's Covid-19 Vaccinations Hold Lessons for U.S.
By Felicia Schwartz
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.
--Dov Lieber contributed to this article.
Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 10, 2021 14:49 ET (19:49 GMT)
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