One of Israel’s top infectious disease experts on Monday expressed her frustration that a large portion of Israelis are refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, even as infection and hospitalization rates are on the rise.
“It is not acceptable to me that 1.1 million people in Israel are unvaccinated. This is a matter that must be resolved,” said Prof. Galia Rahav, head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Sheba Medical Center. In her interview with the Ynet news portal, Prof. Rahav stressed that it was now “critical” for Israel to close its vaccination gap.
“If ten days ago we had about eight [COVID-related] hospitalizations a day, we now have 23 serious patients and at least two ventilated [per day],” she added.
Prof. Rahav explained 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.
As such, she strongly urged Israelis over the age of 60 to get a COVID-19 booster shot, and for all children aged 12-15 to be fully vaccinated before the start of the school year.
Speaking of school, Prof. Rahav took aim at Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, who last week said it was “criminal” to set up vaccination stations in public schools. According to Prof. Rahav, that is precisely what should happen. “The Ministry of Health is in charge of public health, not the Ministry of Education, so this decision needs to be made in the Ministry of Health,” she insisted.
Prof. Rahav concluded that she knows the government is currently engaged in a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, it must curb the growing fourth wave of coronavirus, while at the same time keeping the economy as open as possible, which includes making sure schools can open at the beginning of September.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the heads of the Israel’s HMOs that he wants to see daily vaccination rates increase fivefold, and to have every eligible Israeli fully vaccinated by the end of August.
Experts warn that if this is not achieved, Israel could be facing a lockdown, or at least severe restrictions on social gatherings during the upcoming biblical festivals.