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As vaccine campaign slows, Israel starts inoculating all Israelis 16 and up

With Israel’s mass vaccination program apparently losing steam, the country opened up inoculation to anyone over the age of 16 removing restrictions of age and at-risk groups, in hopes of keeping up the high pace of inoculations.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein expressed disappointment that the number of vaccinations dropped to 107,000 in one day after setting records of 170,000 per day and encouraged all citizens to get vaccinated.

Despite the drop, and after the Health Ministry said on Wednesday that it would open vaccination to those 16 and up, there were reports that at least one of the country’s health maintenance organizations did not have enough shots to meet demand. Israel was the first country to authorize use of the vaccine for pregnant women and is even authorizing use on children under 16 with high-risk conditions if they get a doctor’s note. No testing has been done on pregnant women or children 16 and under.

Nevertheless, Israeli might be reaching vaccination saturation. The slowdown is causing HMOs to have to throw away expired doses.

“Unfortunately, we’re really not seeing the number of people we used to see,” an official at Clalit said. “We’ve seen a dramatic decline in the rate of vaccinations.”

More than one third of the Israel’s population had been vaccinated already in a campaign being personally pushed and led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over 3.3 million people have received at least the first shot and nearly 2 million the second.

Even so, Israel can’t seem to get the infections under control. Having spent more days in lockdown than any other country, the Jewish state is still in a month-long lockdown — the third nationwide shut down. 

And yet at the same time the vaccine should be taking effect, and with another lcokdown, in the month of January, Israel experienced record high infection numbers, reached nearly 5,000 COVID deaths and still 1,103 patients in serious condition.

This lockdown was extended by several days until Friday morning at 7 a.m. but as of Thursday night was pushed back again until midnight on Sunday. All nonessential businesses, schools and Ben Gurion International Airport itself are closed.

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