Israel leads the path forward in combating COVID-19

As President Biden rolled up his sleeve Monday, Sept. 27, to receive a booster shot of the Pfizer-COVID vaccine as a role model for Americans, Israel’s top scientists were speaking openly about their plans to administer a “fourth, fifth, sixth or even seventh shot” as long as the virus persists.

Although the pandemic’s death toll has now risen to almost 700,000 Americans, millions of our citizens have yet to receive a single dose of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Many in our nation oppose taking the vaccine for a host of reasons: Some do not trust that the vaccine is safe; many Americans feel the federal government is coercing them to submit to the vaccine, and perceive their personal liberty to be threatened. Still others assert that the virulent virus is not a serious threat to their health, despite the hundreds of thousands felled by the scourge.

As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, throughout the pandemic “Israel’s public-health experts have been consistently ahead of their counterparts [across the world].” The Journal explained that in July, teams of Israeli scientists and government health officials conferred in lengthy video calls to create a strategy for administering a booster or third shot of the vaccine to as many Israelis as possible.

And, within a matter of days of the extended phone conferences in July, millions of booster shots were administered. This was months before the U.S. or any other country would create a booster strategy.

“It was really a tough discussion,” Dr. Gili Regev-Yochay, an Israeli epidemiologist, told the Journal. “[But] it was a decision that was reached essentially with one voice.”

Israel also led the world by extending vaccines to younger teenagers and by adopting a COVID-vaccine passport system.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticized Israel for vaccinating teenagers with a booster or third dose while millions of people in the world’s poorer countries have yet to receive their first injections. It has been widely reported that Israel has donated thousands of vaccines to poorer nations such as Guatemala and Honduras, and to Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

It is important to remember that Israel is responsible for its own national security. Just as President Biden has identified the continuing coronavirus and its mutations as a threat to America’s national security, the disease is a real threat to Israel’s health, safety and welfare.

The United States has followed Israel’s lead on the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently endorsed booster vaccines for Americans who are 65 and older and adults in high-risk groups.

Great Britain has also followed Israel’s lead. Last month, British health officials began administering booster shots to individuals over 50 and those with serious health complications.

One reason that Israel has been so nimble in responding to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus is that the Jewish state is geared to cope with cataclysms.

“We are always living on the verge of an emergency,” Dr. Arnon Afex, an Israeli pathologist, said in the Journal’s report. “It might be from the Gaza Strip or COVID or cyberwars against our enemies. We know how to rely on ourselves and know how to deal with emergency situations,” he added.

Now, as President Biden labors mightily to persuade all Americans to roll up their sleeves for initial doses of the vaccine, Israel’s medical experts are developing plans to cope with the ongoing threat of the virus and its mutations.

“There will be a fourth, fifth, sixth or even seventh shot as long as COVID-19 continues to strike the world…. We’ll continue to see variants rise up,” Dr. Afek said.

Israel’s leadership in combating the coronavirus is a clear example of its positive contributions to the world’s science and technology. Though its population is only about 9.2 million, Israel is setting the benchmark for the U.S., Britain and other industrialized nations in successfully battling the most serious epidemic to confront humanity in the last century.

A version of this editorial appeared in the Oct. 7, 2021, issue of the Jewish Herald-Voice of Houston.

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