Boost for UK’s vaccine drive as Israel reopens economy after HALF the population get Covid jabs


Israel reopened swathes of its economy today with the number of over-60s in its hospitals with Covid-19 plummeting after the nation vaccinated almost half its population.

In promising signs for Britain’s own fight against the virus, Israel’s world-beating vaccination programme has led to the number of hospital patients over the age of 60 visiting to fall drastically compared to younger people.  

While shops are now open to all in Israel, the public must carry a vaccine passport if they want to visit gyms, hotels and theatres.  

The innovative ‘green pass’ is issued to those who have had both doses of the Pfizer vaccine more than a week prior or recovered from Covid-19 with presumed immunity. 

They will have their ‘Green Pass’ status displayed on a Health Ministry app that they must present at certain venues. 

The fall in Israelis over the age of 60 attending hospital with Covid-19 is a dramatic show of how effective the Pfizer vaccine is, with Israel’s health ministry announcing that the risk of illness from Covid-19 dropped by 95.8 per cent among people who received both shots of Pfizer’s vaccine.   

The jab was also 98 per cent effective in preventing fever or breathing problems and 98.9 per cent effective in preventing hospitalisations and death, the ministry added. 

The positive steps have implications for Britain where data suggests that the roll-out of vaccines to the older age groups alongside lockdown restrictions are reducing death rates.

‘The performance of the vaccine is really good news,’ epidemiologist Mark Woolhouse of Ediburgh University told The Observer. ‘You never quite know how clinical trials will translate in a true mass vaccination programme. 

‘But the numbers are looking very good. The vaccines protect very well against severe disease.’   

In a promising step that will be watched closely by Number 10, Israel’s world-beating vaccination programme has led to the number of hospital patients over the age of 60 visiting to plummet compared to younger people

Israel reopened swathes of its economy today, with the government saying that the move was enabled by a Covid-19 vaccination drive that has reached almost half the population

Israel reopened swathes of its economy today, with the government saying that the move was enabled by a Covid-19 vaccination drive that has reached almost half the population

Israel has been running the world's fastest inoculation programme but it has begun slowing down as the jab is offered to younger people, who are less at risk from Covid

Israel has been running the world’s fastest inoculation programme but it has begun slowing down as the jab is offered to younger people, who are less at risk from Covid

While shops are now open to all, Israeli's must carry a vaccine passport if they want to visit gyms, hotels and theatres. Pictured: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds the 'Green pass' mobile up as he visits a fitness gym ahead of the re-opening of gyms on Saturday

While shops are now open to all, Israeli’s must carry a vaccine passport if they want to visit gyms, hotels and theatres. Pictured: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds the ‘Green pass’ mobile up as he visits a fitness gym ahead of the re-opening of gyms on Saturday

Israel’s ‘green pass’ to grant freedom to the immune

Israel plans to open up some hotels, gyms and other leisure facilities in two weeks for those who have a ‘green pass.’

The passport will be issued in an official app for smartphones and allow people who have received the jab recovered from Covid-19 with presumed immunity.

Initially dubbed ‘Green Passport,’ the system has been renamed ‘Green Pass’ in an apparent bid to head off speculation that it would also enable unfettered travel abroad.

From February 23, those with a Green Pass can visit malls, gyms, hotels and museums.

From March 6, those with the Green Pass will be allowed to attend larger events and stay at hotels after Israel’s first documented coronavirus case, Sunday’s easing of curbs was part of a government plan to open the economy more widely next month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up for reelection. 

Israel’s Prime Minister announced at the weekend he expects 95 per cent of Israelis aged 50 and over to be vaccinated in the next two weeks. 

Britain will follow suit in the coming months, with Matt Hancock announcing today that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested.    

Under Israel’s restrictions, mask-wearing and social-distancing are still in force in the country while dancing is barred at banquet halls. Synagogues, mosques and churches are required to halve their normal congregation sizes. 

Israel has been hailed for running a world-beating vaccine programme that has seen it vaccinate a greater share of its population than any other country, with more than four million people now vaccinated.  

Britain is second in the world for dishing out doses, though the proportion of Israelis vaccinated is far higher at 46 per cent compared to around 25 per cent. 

Israel has undergone a 24/7 operation when it comes to administering the vaccine – an idea which did not take off in the UK.   

In a critical difference between the two countries, Israel’s healthcare service holds digital records for every patient – meaning that those eligible for the jab could be reached quickly in all hours.  

In contrast, the NHS is working to digitise medical records with its ten year plan. 

Israel was also able to alert people about expiring vaccines to avoid wasting the jab using Whatsapp groups.   

The British cabinet will also need to consider the efficacy of the vaccines in the UK.

Whereas Israel is exclusively using Pfizer jabs, Britain is heavily reliant on the AstraZeneca vaccine which is not thought to offer the same level of protection.

Pfizer’s dose is believed to confer better immunity to the South African and Brazilian mutant variants which are causing grave fears in Downing Street.

Coming exactly a year after Israel’s first documented coronavirus case, Sunday’s easing of curbs was part of a government plan to open the economy more widely next month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up for reelection. 

‘We are the first country in the world that is reviving itself thanks to the millions of vaccines we brought in,’ he tweeted. ‘Vaccinated? Get the Green Pass and get back to life.’ 

Israel has been hailed for running a world-beating vaccine programme that has seen it vaccinate a greater share of its population than any other country, with more than four million people now vaccinated

Israel has been hailed for running a world-beating vaccine programme that has seen it vaccinate a greater share of its population than any other country, with more than four million people now vaccinated

Israel's health ministry said the risk of illness from Covid-19 dropped by 95.8 per cent among people who received both shots of Pfizer's vaccine

Israel’s health ministry said the risk of illness from Covid-19 dropped by 95.8 per cent among people who received both shots of Pfizer’s vaccine

Israel has administered at least one dose of the Pfizer Inc vaccine to more than 46 per cent of its 9 million population, the Health Ministry says. 

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock confirmed this morning that every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July.  

The figures released on Saturday said the risk of illness from the virus dropped by a staggering 95.8 per cent among people who had received both shots of Pfizer’s vaccine. 

The findings were based on data collected nationally through February 13 from Israelis who had received their second shot at least two weeks previously. 

According to the Health Ministry’s website, about 1.7 million people had been administered a second shot by January 30, making them eligible to be included. 

A bar in Tel Aviv is now offering punters a very different kind of shot after being turned into a temporary vaccination centre

A bar in Tel Aviv is now offering punters a very different kind of shot after being turned into a temporary vaccination centre

Israel’s ambitious vaccination drive has made it the largest real-world study of Pfizer’s vaccine and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday he expects 95% of Israelis age 50 and over to be vaccinated in the next two weeks.

Previous reports from individual health care providers also showed positive results, spurring Israel to remove restrictions on the economy after weeks of lockdown. 

Israel opened a Covid vaccination centre in Tel Aviv’s Jenia gastropub on Thursday and is offering a free drink to anyone who gets a shot to encourage young people to get vaccinated.

Most of those who have received the vaccine are older people – and there are fears that younger people, who are much less at risk from Covid, will be less eager to get the jabs – leading to novel ideas to tempt them in.

The rate of people taking up the vaccine has dropped drastically in recent weeks as the roll-out extends beyond the elderly and vulnerable and into lower-risk groups.

Meanwhile, doctors have reported seeing an increase in younger people ending up in hospital – the vast majority of whom have not been vaccinated.

While that is encouraging, because it means the vaccine works, health officials say the challenge now is in convincing more people to get it.

Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein on Thursday announced the roll-out of the ‘green pass’.  

‘Today we bring tremendous news to the vaccinated – this is what your first step on the way back to nearly normal life is going to look like,’ he said. 

‘Soon there will be workplaces where the employees will be required to vaccinate or to test for coronavirus every 48 hours in order to work.’

Elementary schoolchildren and pupils in the last two years of high school attended classes on Sunday in Israeli towns found to have contagion rates under control. Pictured: Children arrive for class in a Junior School in Jerusalem today

Elementary schoolchildren and pupils in the last two years of high school attended classes on Sunday in Israeli towns found to have contagion rates under control. Pictured: Children arrive for class in a Junior School in Jerusalem today

The country has logged more than 740,000 cases and 5,500 deaths from the illness, prompting criticism of the Netanyahu government’s sometimes patchy enforcement of three national lockdowns. It has pledged that there will not be a fourth.

But Nachman Ash, a physician in charge of the country’s pandemic response, told Army Radio that another lockdown ‘is still possible. Half of the population is still not immune.’

Elementary schoolchildren and pupils in the last two years of high school attended classes on Sunday in Israeli towns found to have contagion rates under control. 

Children attending middle school are due back by next month, after almost a year of remote learning.

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