Health Minister Calls for Urgent Teen Vaccinations

YERUSHALAYIM -
El Al plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

As the number of new coronavirus cases climbed on Monday, anxiety among Israeli officials rose with it.

Some 88 new cases were reported on Monday as of 5 p.m., the highest daily number in months. Officials were already expressing concern on Sunday when the number reached 48, after it had been nearly nil for weeks.

Health Ministry director Chezy Levy and the heads of Israel’s health funds have commenced a campaign to get children between the ages of 12 and 15 vaccinated as soon as possible, according to media reports.

Vaccinations for that age group began two weeks ago, but with so few infections reported the Health Ministry did not issue a direct recommendation for teens to get vaccinated. But the policy has changed now that rising infections have been found among students in particular.

Only 24.9 percent of Israelis between the ages of 12 and 19 have received a single dose; the shot is not available to those under 12.

Ran Sa’ar, the head of the Maccabi health fund, told Army Radio that he is seeing a surge in people getting vaccinated, and the numbers are expected to go up.

In a word of reassurance, he said the current outbreak, probably due to the Delta variant, will be containable so long as the government enforcing quarantines and testing continues.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha Biton said that “we are closely following the figures. The ministry is providing acute services to places where outbreaks are being identified, including daycares and summer schools, and in preparation for the next school year.”

“Once we lifted restrictions, it was clear that local outbreaks were just a matter of time,” Prof. Ron Balicer, who advises the government on coronavirus policy, tells Kan news. “If we see spread from community to community in the next few days, we may need to look at more measures to halt the spread.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said on Monday that his staff is working with the Transportation Ministry to expand coronavirus testing at Ben Gurion airport, after the airport personnel could not handle the number of incoming passengers and thousands were allowed to leave without being tested.

Horowitz said the ministry is demanding more testers be hired and that the airport set aside more room for testing.

“The lines are already shorter, but that’s not enough. We need to shorten them in a better way, and especially to ready for the expected rush at the airport during the summer months,” he said.

He threatened that “very high” fines will be imposed on anyone who travels to restricted countries.

But, he said, there’s no need for panic.