I have had the privilege of living in Israel for almost 37 years and this week is one of the times when I am most proud and most grateful for the opportunity to be here.
The world’s battle against the Covid-19 virus has been waged courageously for 10 months, with every modern nation struggling simultaneously to contain the damage and develop a vaccine.
To be sure, many countries were ravaged by the virus and its effects and have not been successful in taming it. Surprisingly these include some of the world’s most advanced economies such as the U.S. and Italy, among others. However, other nations that acted rapidly, intelligently anticipated the magnitude of the problem and dealt with it aggressively early and forcefully. These include New Zealand (with the incredibly low total of 5 deaths from Covid), Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Germany, to name a few. Women, by the way, lead no small percentage of those, so perhaps we can learn something from that as well.
In summary, from a containment standpoint, the world in general did not do very well. Fro example, as I write this, someone is dying every 2.6 minutes in the U.S. Wednesday’s daily record was 3,440 deaths. Nothing to be proud of to be sure.
Nevertheless, on the vaccination side the world has achieved something nobody thought possible earlier this year. Effectively, in less than nine months a number of pharmaceutical companies have been able to isolate the virus, develop a vaccine, test it on a statistically sufficient sampling of people and bring the product to market. This all the more remarkable as pharmacological experts all agree that bringing a new drug to market from inception generally is an 8-10 year process….this was done in 8-10 months.
Nevertheless, as the doctors have been saying for the last few weeks, there is a huge difference between having a vaccine and having people vaccinated. It is on this point that I am so proud of Israel and feel so privileged to be here.
In the last week since Israel started vaccinations, over 600,000 citizens have received the vaccine. That means we have vaccinated almost 7% of the population in seven days. If we keep that rate up the entire population of Israel could be fully vaccinated in a total of 100 days or, in calendar terms, by the end of March.
Now compare that to other major industrialized nations. The U.S., for example, has vaccinated just 2.1 million people in the first week of its program (with 9 million more doses available but incredibly still not delivered to medical facilities). With a population of 328 million, that means if the present slow rate continues it will be January 2024 before the entire population is vaccinated. How is that possible in the richest country in the world?
In England, 600,000 people were vaccinated in the first week. With a population of 60 million that means that, at the present rate, it will take almost two years to get the entire population vaccinated or not until January, 2023.
That is not even the full story. Even the process itself here is much more organized than in the U.S. Given that appointment slots for the vaccinations were sometimes challenging to find (e.g. I, myself, along with my wife, had to travel 60 km to Ashdod to get our shots) the system was organized. Generally, the process took no more than 45 minutes start-to-finish. In some places in the U.S. by contrast (Tuesday night in Florida for example) senior citizens had to line up outside medical facilities in the cold and wait hours for first come, first served vaccinations, rather than having a specific time for their shots. How can that be permitted to happen?
But here, in spite of the political turmoil (or maybe because of it) our government, even a government about to go to elections, was able to coordinate with our four health funds and make it work for our benefit? For that, we all need to say thank you and acknowledge what a special privilege it is to live in a country where, when the chips are down, we still care enough about each other to put saving lives first, before any other considerations.
Let us hope that as we enter 2021, that the light at the end of the Covid tunnel will become brighter every moment until we come out into the sunshine of a Covid-free world. May it be so.