Israeli-Arab nurse and a religious Jewish man give thumbs up after he received the coronavirus vaccine at the Meuhedet HMO in Jerusalem, Dec. 21, 2020. (Flash90/Olivier Fitoussi) (Flash90/Olivier Fitoussi)
CORONAVIRUS

Israel starts vaccinating 16,000 people a day beginning with senior citizens and those at risk as massive campaign gets underway to inoculate the entire country and defeat the pandemic.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Israelis by the tens of thousands swamped call centers trying to make appointments to get a coronavirus vaccine as Israel launched the largest vaccination program in the country’s history.

In the first day of the campaign on Sunday it is estimated that some 10,000 medical staff members were vaccinated against the coronavirus, and on Monday health maintenance organizations (HMOs) started inoculating those aged 60 and over and at-risk populations.

By the end of the first week the target is to have 100,000 people receiving the first of the two-shot vaccine produced by the American company Pfizer.

Israel’s “HMOs are up to the task,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, noting that some 200,000 Israelis had already contacted their HMO to make an appointment for a vaccination, causing some of the call centers to crash.

“In the coming days we will increase the pace. I call on everyone above age 60 – go get vaccinated, that’s the only way to fight corona,” Edelstein said.

Health Ministry Director General Prof. Hezi Levy said there was great response from medical staff throughout the country and the public was participating in large numbers.

“It is important for me to emphasize – we will vaccinate everyone and there is nothing to worry about,” Levy said.

Israel’s four HMOs are administering the shots across the country with teams able to vaccinate about 16,000 people each day. It is estimated that within weeks, as more vaccine doses arrive in Israel, the entire population will join the operation with the goal of 60,000 vaccinations daily.

Kalanit Kay, director of the corona vaccine campaign for the Clalit HMO, told Walla! News that the rate of vaccination depends on the speed of delivery of the vaccines to the HMOs, saying she expects the actual number of those vaccinated by the end of the week to be even higher than 100,000.

“At the rate of 16,000 vaccines a day, by the end of the week we will be around 100,000 vaccinated,” Kay said. “Then in a few weeks we will be able to open [the vaccination campaign] to the entire population.”

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