Israel's coronavirus campaign: Day 1 - in photos

Medical staff receives vaccine in Ichilov Hospital, December 19, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Politicians, medical professionals and health workers began receiving the vaccine from 6 a.m.

Israel kick-started its coronavirus vaccine program on Sunday morning as politicians, medical professionals and health workers began receiving the vaccine from 6 a.m.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which arrived in Israel on December 9, was given first to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Saturday night.
The prime minister’s office tweeted on Sunday night: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal physician, Dr. Zvi Herman Berkowitz updated on his condition following his vaccination: ‘Yesterday, the PM received the first anti-coronavirus vaccination in Israel. He is in excellent condition and has no symptoms or side effects.’”
Former coronavirus commissioner and CEO of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, got the rock star treatment as he was vaccinated in the lobby of the medical center on Sunday morning as were other VIPs from the worlds of religion and politics.
Prof. Ronni Gamzu is inoculated against the novel coronavirus (Credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Gamzu, former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Finance Minister Israel Katz were vaccinated following a musical performance by Ivri Lider, where doctors and nurses danced.
Gamzu gave the thumbs up after receiving his shot and said Israel could, and should, become number one in the world in vaccinating its citizens. He thanked the medical personnel, saying they had given the best care in the world, and ended by urging all Israelis to follow his example: “Make an appointment and get vaccinated. It’s the right thing to do.”
Lau echoed his sentiments and said that the vaccine would bring unity to Israel and that “there is no difference between right and left, religious and less, Arabs and Jews” as the virus has attacked everyone equally.
Minister Israel Katz is vaccinated on December 20 (Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Maariv)
Katz promised more aid to those unemployed due to the virus.
President Reuven Rivlin was also vaccinated on Sunday afternoon at Hadassah-University Medical Center, in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. Rivlin said afterwards, “The concerns are legitimate, but it is important to remember that the vaccines that in Israel have gone through meticulous processes, have passed stringent checks and been approved both by the US Food and Drugs Administration and by the Israeli Health Ministry.”
“When you go and get vaccinated, you are not only taking care of your own health, but of the health of those around you. You will also be helping everyone to return to normal life. You will be helping the economy to restart and to take some of the enormous pressure off our medical teams.”
The president also took time to pay tribute to healthcare workers stating, “This is another opportunity to salute the medical teams in the hospitals and clinics and to thank you for the hours, the effort, the care. Israeli society owes you a great debt of gratitude.”
President Reuven Rivlin gets the coronavirus vaccine, Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem, December 20, 2020 (Mark Neyman/GPO)
Health Ministry director-general Chezy Levy, said Sunday was “an exciting day with a lot of hope. There is a great response to getting vaccinated and this is the key to getting out of the coronavirus crisis.
“Our directive to hospitals and health funds is to vaccinate the medical staff today and tomorrow, and starting Tuesday, to vaccinate people aged 60 and over.”
Levy referred later in a videotaped message to the new recommendations for populations that can be vaccinated, such as pregnant women, lactating women and women planning to get pregnant, and said that vaccines can be given to patients suffering from allergies, except for specific allergies to certain ingredients of the vaccine.
He also said that the elderly in nursing homes and the staff who work with them are expected to be vaccinated next week. The death rate from the virus among the elderly in care homes has been disproportionately high and they cannot be vaccinated sooner, with the rest of the over-60 population because of a technical issue involving how large quantities of vaccines are packaged in each tray, which are more than are needed at each nursing home.
“The vaccines are already here,” Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay said upon receiving his jab. “If we all mobilize, the plague could be behind us soon. I call on all Israeli citizens: Get vaccinated! These vaccines have gone through all the required process and are safe to use. It is a great victory for science and humanity.”
Clalit director-general Ehud Dodson (L) alongside Health Minister Yuli Edelstein receives the coronavirus vaccine, Heichal Shlomo (Credit: Avi Cohen)
“Yesterday I was vaccinated, I feel great,” said Edelstein alongside Clalit Healthcare director-general Ehud Dodson at Heichal Shlomo in Tel Aviv. “Thanks to the efforts of the prime minister, myself and the Health Ministry, we moved forward with the vaccines.
“We as the State of Israel are in a special situation. We are aware that there will be glitches, because it is impossible to carry out an operation of millions of vaccinations without a glitch here and there. I ask everyone for patience and come and get vaccinated. Only then can we return to the routine we knew.”
Dodson said, “Clalit is preparing and setting out today for the great national campaign for coronavirus vaccines that will free us from the difficult period we have been experiencing for almost a year. We are embarking on a deployment of dozens of centers around the country in the coming week.”
“Only three weeks ago, no one expected us to start vaccinating Israel’s citizens,” Edelstein said, in a call to the heads of four HMOs Sunday.
“A good word goes to all the HMOs. I kept saying that in such a large operation there is no doubt that there will be glitches here and there, and that we will overcome them all. I am told: ‘I was 45 minutes on the hotline without getting an answer.’ This indicates a very high demand.” If the health funds had not cooperated with each other, the vaccination campaign would not have succeeded, he said.
Dodson said that appointments were made for about 90,000 people and that on Sunday, Clalit inoculated about 1,300 fund members and staff at its vaccination center in Herzliya. Meuhedet CEO Sigal Rosenberg said that the fund has booked 23,000 appointments and from  tomorrow it will be able to vaccinate 4,000 members per day, and in a week, it will reach a capacity of 10,000 per day. “We have a demand that exceeds supply,” she said.
Health Ministry officials have assured that there will be not be a shortage of vaccines and that supply will grow to meet demand. Already this week, 60 supply points will be opened, which is far beyond what was planned. Levy told the directors of the funds that if supplies run short, he would warn them, but until then, they can order as many vaccines as they want and can expect to receive them.
Prof. Zeev Rotstein, head of Hadassah-University Medical Center, will be inoculated on Monday with the Israel Institute for Biological Research vaccine candidate, Brilife, as part of its Phase II clinical trial.
According to Clalit, over 70,000 coronavirus vaccination appointments have been scheduled and there was a huge upsurge of new appointments following the event.
The other health funds said similar numbers had registered for vaccines. Most hospitals administered around 1,000 vaccinations, or are expected to do so by the end of the week. The Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon announced Sunday that 225 people had been vaccinated there so far.
Describing this as an encouraging sign, the health fund said in a statement that they “want to do everything possible to make sure all applicants get an answer.”
Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis receives the coronavirus vaccine, Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus, December 20, 2020 (Credit: Rabin Medical Center)
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of Public Health Services, said after receiving the vaccine that “this is a day that gives new hope to the citizens of the State of Israel – a real hope for a safe return to normal life. The vaccine is effective, safe and the feeling after is excellent. I also lent a shoulder, and I call on everyone to join the senior members of the system who are already getting vaccinated.”
Many more senior physicians and other hospital staff were vaccinated at the event. In a survey conducted by the Israel Medical Association, 82% of doctors said they would take the vaccine when offered.
“We approach this vaccine with the understanding and hope that it will end this cursed pandemic,” said Zeev Feldman, president of the association. “We are determined to end this. The only way to do that is to vaccinate.”
Said one nurse in Tel Aviv who was vaccinated on Sunday, regarding her more skeptical colleagues: “All of you who are going to wait and see how people who are vaccinated react – we’re taking it, so you can see.”
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash was vaccinated at the Maccabi complex in Herzliya. After receiving the vaccine, he said: “We started the vaccination operation today. This is a great hope for the people of Israel, for the State of Israel. At the same time, in the coming weeks, we must continue to follow all the guidelines. The corona is still here!”
Vaccinations were also given out at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, with the first ones to be vaccinated there being the hospital’s director Dr. Sarit Avishai-Eliner and Rehovot Mayor Rahamim Malul. The Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, 81, was to be vaccinated Sunday night at Meuhedet in Jerusalem.
The two called on others to apply to get vaccinated.
Thousands of other employees and medical staff at the hospital are set to be vaccinated later this week.
The coronavirus vaccine is seen being administered at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot on December 20, 2020. (Photo credit: Gilad Sha'abani/Kaplan Medical Center)
As citizens over 60 tried to schedule appointments with their health funds, many were frustrated that they could not get through to the special numbers they were told to call. Some got busy signals or were disconnected and the Maccabi health fund website crashed. Maccabi CEO Ran Saar said on Channel 12 that the problems were being dealt with and those who call on Monday will not have problems. But customers of other health funds said the scheduling procedure was “quick and easy.” Several people under 60 who said they had tried to schedule a jab even though they are not eligible, were not given appointments.
There were calls today for other segments of the population to receive the vaccines. Education Minister Yoav Gallant demanded in the coronavirus cabinet Sunday that all education system staff be vaccinated immediately after medical staff. “Kindergarten teachers are doing praiseworthy work and are at the forefront of the struggle with corona – it is our duty to maintain their health and well-being and vaccinate them immediately,” he said, but it was not yet clear when teachers under 60 would receive vaccines.
Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay receives the coronavirus vaccine, Sheba Medical Center (Credit: Sheba Medical Center)
On Saturday night, Levy told The Jerusalem Post that shipments are set to arrive at a pace of about twice a week. So far, around 600,000 Pfizer vaccines have arrived, and several million more are expected before the end of the month.
After medical personnel, seniors over the age of 60 and those with pre-existing medical conditions that put them at high risk for developing a serious condition of the virus will be prioritized for vaccination. This general campaign is expected to start on Monday at health funds across Israel.
So far, 3,074 people have died in Israel as a result of contracting the virus.
Maccabi Healthcare Services CEO Ran Saar receives the coronavirus vaccine (Credit: Courtesy Maccabi Healthcare Services)

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