Israeli vaccinations up, infections drop from record high as outbreak appears to ease

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By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Data released by Israel’s Health Ministry on Friday showed that coronavirus infection numbers are starting to drop as the number of Israelis vaccinated against the disease continues to rise.

There were 7,114 new infections in the past day, down from a record high of just over 10,000 earlier in the week, with 1,847 Israelis hospitalized with coronavirus, down from a peak of 1.989 on Sunday.

The number of those currently listed in serious condition is also down slightly to 1,158, with 328 of them in critical condition connected to ventilators to help them breathe. So far this week 258 Israelis have succumbed to the virus, bringing the death toll to 4,263 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The deadly power of the third wave of infections to hit Israel is evident in the rising number of fatalities. Since December 22, 1,152 Israelis died from coronavirus, meaning more than a quarter of the deaths from the pandemic have occurred in the past month alone.

The national vaccination campaign using the two-shot vaccine from the American company Pfizer is continuing at a record pace. As of Friday morning, 2.4 million of Israel’s 9.3 million citizens have received the vaccination, with 851,000 already inoculated with the two doses required.

“We broke another record in the number of vaccinated per day – 224,000 vaccines were given yesterday,” tweeted Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

One of the factors keeping the numbers higher than what health officials want is the large number of Israelis returning from abroad who refuse to follow health guidelines that require 14 days of self-isolation.

“There is no vaccine for irresponsibility. Only a third (32%) of those returning from abroad have maintained their isolation obligation,” despite all countries being declared “red” by the Health Ministry over fears many air travelers are infected with mutations of the coronavirus,” Israel Hayom reported.

“Anyone who breaks the rules is responsible for thousands of people infected,” Dr. Zeev Feldman, a senior doctor at Sheba Medical Center, told the paper.

Israelis continue to turn out in large numbers to get vaccinated, with the country’s four health maintenance organizations providing the bulk of the work. By law, all Israelis belong to an HMO and are able to make an appointment for a vaccination by phone or online.

At the Meuhedet vaccination clinic operated in Jerusalem’s Misgav Ledach Hospital, a constant stream of HMO members arrived on Thursday with hundreds of people getting vaccinated every hour. After getting their temperatures checked at the door, they swiped their health cards at a computerized stand, received a number, and following a short wait were called to the vaccination room, where medical staff at 10 stations checked their information before administering the dose.

After waiting 15 minutes to ensure there were no adverse side affects, the vaccinated people returned home. Israel’s national lockdown continues with schools and most retail business closed except for food stores and pharmacies.

The head of Israel’s national coronavirus task force, Prof. Nachman Ash, told Channel 12 News Thursday he hoped the lockdown would not have to be extended past the end of the month.

“The data is encouraging — we’ve already seen for several days a curbing and even decline in morbidity,” Ash said. “I very much hope the trend continues and we won’t have to extend the lockdown.”