Israel has vaccinated more than one million people against COVID-19 in just over 10 days, in what experts believe is the world’s fastest ever vaccine drive.
More than one million Israelis have received an initial shot of a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, including all medical staff and one in every four people aged over 60. Two doses of the vaccine must be administered, around three weeks apart, to confer full virus immunity.
Israel’s vaccination drive began on December 20 when prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first person to receive the vaccine, doing so on live TV. Since then, the country has enlisted army paramedics, hospital staff and community clinics as it powers towards its target of vaccinating 150,000 people every day.
Rollout of the vaccine has been made more efficient thanks to the use of technology that sends citizens text and voice messages as soon as they are eligible for an inoculation appointment. Anyone who believes they have been overlooked can call the national health service and set an appointment over the phone.
Israel now leads the world with a vaccination rate of 11.5 per cent of the total population, followed Bahrain at 3.5 per cent and the UK at 1.5 per cent, according to a global tracking website Our World in Data, which isaffiliated with Oxford University.
The country's health minister, Yuli Edelstein, has said the majority of its high-risk population would receive the second of the required two doses of the vaccine by late January.
The number of new coronavirus cases in Israel has risen sharply in recent weeks to more than 5,000 a day, after a drop in the autumn following the introduction of new restrictions. The country is currently in a partial lockdown for the third time, with more than 420,000 Israelis infected and 3,325 dead since the start of the pandemic.
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have not been included in the Israeli government's inoculation campaign and have not had access to any vaccines. According to the New York Times, the Palestinian Authority does not appear to have publicly requested any vaccines, but legal experts and human rights activists saying Israel had an obligation to provide them.