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VACCI-NATION? Outpacing the world, Israel inoculates 12% of population in two weeks against COVID-19

Israel surges ahead with rollout while PM poses with ex-convict in botched publicity photo of millionth vaccine recipient

An Israeli woman recieving a Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center operated by the Tel Aviv Municipality with Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Dec. 31, 2020. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel has already vaccinated more than 1.2 million out of its 9.3 million citizens as of Monday, representing more than 12% of its population and far outpacing the world in its mass-inoculation campaign.

On Friday, the country reached the million mark.

“Yesterday we broke a new record and vaccinated 153,430 people,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a statement Friday morning, adding that “Today we’ll pass 1 million.”

In a botched publicity campaign, however, the Israeli who received the millionth vaccine - and posed with Edelstein and the prime minister on Friday - was later revealed to have spent time in jail for armed robbery and other crimes.

Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, 66, served 14 year in prison before being released in 1992. He maintains his innocence and said he has served his time and put his past behind him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) with Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, the millionth Israeli to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and medical staff in Umm al-Fahm, Jan. 1, 2021. (Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

But city officials in Umm al-Fahm were surprised that Jabarin was chosen for the photo and assumed that event organizers did not properly vet him. Nevertheless, the choice provided fodder to the administration's opponents running in the latest elections.

"The jig is up - this is the definition of this administration," Zvi Hauser, a member of the New Hope party, said in a tweet. "It's behavior in the race to reach the millionth vaccination is paramount to its fight on violence, its management of the economic crisis, and almost everything else it has done to this point."

Israel’s vaccination campaign started on Dec. 20 and initially focused on health care workers before expanding to include those over 60 years old and people who are considered high risk due to previous health conditions. By the end of the day, clinics have opened up vaccination to the general public so as not to let vaccines which have already been prepared for use to be wasted, as it is impossible to re-freeze them once they’ve been prepared.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he’d like to see as many as 2.25 million Israelis vaccinated before the end of this month. This accounts for a large percentage of the population who can be vaccinated since the shot is not given to children under the age of 16.

Israel’s rapid deployment of vaccines has placed it far out ahead of every other country in the world in vaccination per capita. Analysts agree that the country's relatively small population which is based primarily in cities which are serviced by neighborhood health clinics account for the speedy rollout.

Additionally, temporary facilities which were set up as testing centers over the last several months have been quickly converted to vaccination stations, utilizing the trained staff already on site.

The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine must be administered a few weeks after the first dose, after which time the human body will become much less susceptible to the virus, although medical professionals warn that COVID-19 precautions must still be adhered to for the foreseeable future.

Health officials are warning of a slowdown in the coming weeks as the vaccine supply dwindles. Anyone who received their first shot will get their second, but new vaccines will have to wait until the supply has been restocked.

Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem already announced that it is suspending operations at its vaccination clinic while other hospitals have reported that they too are reaching the end of their initial batch.

However, the rapid rate of vaccinations has not prevented the possibility of Israel enforcing a stricter lockdown amid rapidly increasing rates of COVID-19 infections and an increase of those in serious condition.

On Sunday afternoon, health officials began calling for a tightening of the current lockdown which has seen most storefront businesses closed but schools and workplaces still operating. Officials are currently debating whether to close all workplaces and whether to limit school on site or which grades.

*Story was updated Jan. 5, 2021 at 9:35 a.m. Israel time to correct information about the charges against Jabarin.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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