Shortage Could Stop Vaccinations Temporarily

YERUSHALAYIM -
The closed Chan Mall in the northern Israeli city of Rosh Pina, during the third nationwide lockdown. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Israel’s vaccination campaign has rolled out so fast, it’s outstripping supplies possibly necessitating a brief halt, according to media reports on Wednesday night.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein confirmed that the ministry may stop giving out the shots for “a short period,” but assuring Channel 12 News that “there will be no shortage in the second dose.”

Edelstein’s comment amounted to a reversal of his categorical promise of a day ago that there was no shortage and won’t be.

The “short period” might be two weeks in January, according to Channel 13. That’s based on a simple calculation: with a slowdown in the arrival of new Pfizer vaccines, current stocks will run out in 10 days at the current pace of inoculation of 150,000 shots a day.

The freeze will allow those who’ve received the first dose to get the second dose, but new first doses will delayed, the channel said.

Meanwhile, there it was reported on Wednesday that hundreds of doses were deliberately discarded in several municipalities in the south, causing astonishment and indignation.

A total of 467 doses were thrown out without being administered: 212 in Dimona, 165 in Sderot and 90 in Kiryat Gat, according to Channel 13.

Dimona Mayor Benny Biton said the town threw away the shots because the ministry did not initially accept his request to allow people under the age of 60 to receive the extra vaccines.

“It’s a scandal. I’m in favor of vaccinating people aged 65 [sic] and over first, but if they do not come, is it not a pity to throw away all vaccines?” he said.

The Health Ministry rebuked Biton for wasting the shots, saying he didn’t try hard enough to bring in people to be vaccinated.

“Unfortunately in this case the ministry did not get the cooperation expected from the mayor of Dimona,” a statement from the ministry said.

“At the request of the mayor, and in order to avoid throwing away vaccine doses, the Ministry of Health exceptionally and immediately authorized the HMOs to vaccinate a non-priority population as well,” the ministry said, referring to an authorization it gave to a number of cities to vaccinate people below the age of 60 when they have surplus shots.

“From that moment on the mayor was expected to use all his abilities in the municipality to bring in 212 people out of the city of 40,000 inhabitants, just as was the case in other cities with similar cases,” the ministry said. “It seems that cooperation on the part of the mayor could have prevented the disposal of the vaccines.”

However, sources in the Home Front Command were quoted as saying the campaign had gotten “out of control.”

“It was clear already from Thursday that a large amount of vaccines were likely to be thrown away,” one source told Channel 13, claiming that the Health Ministry was pushing the vaccines faster than some municipalities were able handle.

Following the report of discarded vaccines, the Health Ministry is now considering closing the specially designated vaccination centers and returning to giving the shots only at health provider clinics.