Israel’s dramatic rise in COVID-19 patients hospitalized in serious condition continues unabated, with the number topping 500 on Sunday morning. On June 1, there were only 49.
Over the weekend, the coronavirus wards in Tel Aviv hospitals reached their limit and new patients had to be sent to Jerusalem. Hadassah Medical Center said it had opened a new ward to receive the overflow.
This is precisely the scenario that Israel’s new government feared.
The rise in overall infection rates makes headlines, but is not what’s driving experts and officials to suggest and impose new restrictions. Of far greater concern is the overwhelming of the healthcare system by coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization.
And according to those same experts and officials, it’s the approximately one million Israelis who have refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 that are the problem. See: Israelis Protest Against “Medical Dictatorship”
Figures released by hospitals show that the majority of the 500-plus serious cases are unvaccinated or had serious preexisting background conditions. Healthy vaccinated Israelis who have been infected in the past month are in some cases becoming ill, but almost never to the extent of requiring hospitalization, and are fully recovering without medical intervention in a short timeframe.
Another thing Israelis feared earlier in the year was a social division among the population between vaccinated and unvaccinated, accompanied by animosity, if not outright discrimination against the latter.
Recent remarks by politicians and medical officials suggest that fear is becoming reality.
Last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was accused of publicly “shaming” vaccine-refusers and widely panned for urging citizens to confront those who haven’t been jabbed.
“One million Israelis are refusing to get vaccinated. They are endangering the entire population, they are endangering the other 8 million citizens in the country,” insisted Bennett in a primetime television address. “If you know a vaccine refuser, convince them, explain to them that they are risking the health of others.”
While Bennett might have had a more conciliatory approach in mind, doctors at hospitals in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv area were far more direct in their criticism over the weekend.
“The unvaccinated patients are young and very ill. It is heartbreaking and at the same time baffling,” Dr. Noa Eliakim-Raz at the Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva told the Ynet news portal. “By the time they come to us, there is no point in asking why they failed to get their shots. I am sure, had they understood the suffering of patients and their families, and the terror felt by them when their health deteriorates, they would have acted differently.”
Professor Zvi Fridlander is from Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, which will help cover the Tel Aviv area hospitals by taking some of their coronavirus patients. And he’s angry.
“My anger is directed at the million or so who did not get their vaccines,” he told Ynet, adding that many unvaccinated who have then become seriously ill have expressed grave remorse over refusing the vaccine.
Earlier this month, Prof. Galia Rahav, one of Israel’s top infectious disease experts, exclaimed that it was “not acceptable to me that 1.1 million people in Israel are unvaccinated. This is a matter that must be resolved.”
Prof. Rahav explained at the time that vaccination wasn’t going to prevent infection by the Delta variant, but it would keep most of those infected from becoming seriously ill, and thus ease the strain on the healthcare system.