Israel moves to Covid-19 booster vaccinations

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans for Israel to emerge from pandemic in February

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (C) attend a ceremony for the arrival of a plane carrying a shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech anti-coronavirus vaccine, at Ben Gurion airport near the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on January 10, 2021. Netanyahu announced earlier this week that he had signed a deal for enough doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for all Israelis over 16 to be innoculated. Israel, with a population of nine million, has recorded over 3,600 deaths from the Covid-19 illness.
 / AFP / POOL / Motti MILLROD

Israel's coronavirus vaccination campaign, the world's fastest per capita, shifted to booster shots on Sunday to protect the most vulnerable citizens by next month and ease curbs on the economy.

Israelis over the age of 60, medical personnel and people with health problems have been receiving first injections of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines since December 19.

Now that three weeks have passed, they are due for their second doses.

"It changes everything," said Guy Choshen, a director of the Covid-19 ward at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, who received his second injection.

"I'm really happy that I'm over that and looking forward for all this epidemic to be finished."

The Health Ministry said it had administered 19.5 doses for every 100 people of the total population, including more than 72 per cent of those aged over 60.

Older latecomers will be admitted for their first shots, officials say, but otherwise vaccines will be reserved for boosters.

By mid-March about 5 million of the country's 9 million citizens are expected to have received the vaccine.

Israel's vaccination rate is by far the fastest compared to the rest of the world, according to the Our World in Data website, which is run by the research organisation Oxford Martin School.

In second place is the UAE, followed by Bahrain and the US.

At Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watched as crates of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were unloaded from a plane from Belgium.

One official said the shipment contained between 700,000 and 800,000 doses.

Mr Netanyahu, who is up for re-election in March, said another large consignment would arrive a week later.

In the meantime, Israel would accelerate its vaccinations to 170,000 a day from the current 150,000, he said..

Mr Netanyahu said the vaccination campaign would allow Israel to emerge from the pandemic in February.

Israel has also tightened a lockdown to rein in a surge in coronavirus cases.

Officials say public overconfidence in the vaccines might have led to laxity in other precautions and caused new contagions.

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