AA huge white tent stands on the central Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Citizens there can be vaccinated against the corona virus every minute. A vaccination campaign has been running in Israel since December 19. The initial skepticism of many Israelis was followed by an enormous rush to the vaccination stations.
No other country is vaccinated against Corona so quickly. According to researchers from Oxford, as of Friday, 11.55 doses per 100 inhabitants had already been administered. This means that Israel is clearly at the top of the comparison of states, with Bahrain and the United Kingdom only a long way behind. In absolute terms, however, China and the United States lead. How does little Israel manage such a rapid pace?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already declared Israel the “Corona vaccination world champion”. Very early on, he made the race for the corona vaccine a top priority. Netanyahu repeatedly phoned Pfizer boss Albert Bourla to secure millions of vaccine doses for his country. When the 71-year-old was the first to be vaccinated with the Biontech Pfizer vaccine, he said Bourla was now “a personal friend of mine and a great friend of the State of Israel.” The head of government had also said earlier that Bourla was very proud of his Jewish-Greek descent.
“That is not a matter of course”
According to Netanyahu, Israel has agreed to deliver eight million vaccine doses with Pfizer and six million vaccine doses with Moderna. Moderna’s medical director Tal Zaks is Israeli, he studied in the desert city of Beerscheva.
According to media reports, millions of vaccine doses are already in the country – the exact number is kept secret. When the first vaccination doses were flown in by Biontech-Pfizer on December 9th, Netanyahu received them personally at the airport. “It is not a given that the State of Israel, a huge country in so many areas but a small state of nine million people, will get the vaccine at the same time as Britain and the largest and leading countries in the world,” he said at the time.
One dose costs twice as much as in Europe
Professor Arnon Afek, Deputy Director of the Schiba Hospital near Tel Aviv, sees various reasons for the particularly successful course of the vaccination campaign in Israel. “Firstly, we have a very strong public health system, with health insurance for all citizens,” says the former Director General of the Ministry of Health. The model is based on the German system, with health insurance companies and hospitals. “The German Jews who emigrated to Israel brought it with them and set it up here.” In addition, Israel is a high-tech country with world-leading medical equipment and excellent storage facilities for the corona vaccine.
In addition, the Israelis are a very committed, agile people who can react quickly and effectively to crisis situations, says Afek. Many nurses, for example, often voluntarily stayed on for one more shift after they had finished work in order to be able to vaccinate even more people. “Everyone went to war together – the war against the coronavirus.”
Last but not least, Israel is a very small country that is not divided into federal states. “It is easier to vaccinate the population quickly than in a large country like Germany with more than 80 million inhabitants.” According to the newspaper “Jediot Achronot”, Biontech-Pfizer and Moderna see Israel as an ideal “pilot project” precisely because of these requirements “To quickly prove the success of their vaccines.
Israel is paying a lot for its pioneering role: According to media reports, the country pays a 40 percent higher price for the Biontech Pfizer vaccine than the United States, and the difference compared to Europe is even greater. Israel pays the equivalent of almost 23 euros for a dose, according to a list accidentally published by Belgian Finance Secretary Eva De Bleeker, a dose in Europe costs only twelve euros.
At one million, the number of people vaccinated against Corona in Israel so far is already more than twice the number of people who have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic (more than 428,000). About 153,400 people were vaccinated on Thursday alone.
More than ten percent of the population, including more than 40 percent of those over 60, has already received the first dose of vaccine. Israel wants to vaccinate its risk groups as soon as possible in order to then loosen corona restrictions and get the economy going again. People who have been vaccinated twice should receive a “green passport” from mid-January, which grants them various freedoms. Such as exemption from the quarantine obligation for citizens when entering the country or when coming into contact with someone infected with corona.
Netanyahu was repeatedly criticized for his corona policy. He refused, for example, to impose selective lockdowns in residential areas with many strictly religious Jews, even though the infection rates were particularly high there. His critics say he feared that the ultra-Orthodox parties would withdraw their support.
Now Netanyahu wants to score with the impressive vaccination campaign. On March 23, Israel will elect a new parliament for the fourth time in two years. Netanyahu, against whom a corruption process is running, is fighting for his political survival. Political scientist Jonathan Rynhold sees Netanyahu’s approach to the vaccination campaign as a clear “strategy to show that he is the most efficient leader and protects the public (…)”.