Kaufman: What Israel’s vaccine rollout can show us

Israel simply said healthcare workers first, then those over age 60. Now the majority of Israel’s vulnerable population has received the vaccine.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a COVID-19 vaccine. (Israeli PM/Twitter)

Israel delivered its 1 millionth COVID-19 vaccination Friday, becoming the world’s first country to inoculate 10 percent of its population. The Jewish State also has administered more than three times the doses per 100 people of any nation.

After just 11 days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on hand for the record-setting poke.

“We have surpassed the whole world when it comes to vaccinations,” Netanyahu said. “We are moving forward at tremendous speed. It is important to me that the Arab public in Israel also vaccinate quickly. This is important because it saves lives.”

Israel currently has about 3,400 COVID deaths and 430,000 cases and is vaccinating more than 150,000 people per day. The prime minister says his goal is to reach 5.5 million of the country’s more than 9 million residents. That’s barely 60%, far lower than Dr. Anthony Fauci’s goalpost-moving demands for the United States.

The milestone comes as the U.S. sits in fourth place globally, seeing a rollout with about 3 million, or 1%, receiving a shot.

Compared to America, Israel has the benefit of a land size similar to New Jersey and a population slightly larger than Virginia.

We are a massive, heterogeneous country — with a fiercely independent nature and famously skeptical streak — so comparisons are lazy and futile, but it’s noteworthy that three weeks into the most ambitious vaccination campaign in modern history, fewer people are being protected against COVID-19 than officials projected.

“The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states,” President Trump tweeted Wednesday. “Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!”

The shortfall is due in part to a data reporting lag, but in our decentralized republic, the federal government let states determine which vaccines it ships to them; some states pushed decision-making to local health departments, or set forth overly-complicated distribution plans, adding to logistical confusion.

The Trump administration still claims it hit the end-of-year goal because, while we came nowhere close to vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, the vaccines were allocated.

“Operation Warp Speed remains on track to have approximately 40 million doses of vaccine and allocate 20 million doses for first vaccinations by the end of 2020, with distribution of the 20 million first doses spanning into the first week of January as states place orders for them,” Operation Warp Speed spokesman Michael Pratt said this week.

Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said we need to do a better job, but added that, “All vaccine programs start somewhat slow. We had two holidays and three snowstorms. But I think it’s more of just you starting a program, and that starts relatively slowly and ramps up very quickly.”

Our oft-ineffectual CDC bogged things down by encouraging states to vaccinate healthcare workers first, then other “essential” front-line workers, and finally vulnerable seniors.

Israel simply said healthcare workers first, then those over age 60. Now the majority of Israel’s vulnerable population has received the vaccine. U.S. bureaucrats should take cues from Israel’s success.

“The most obvious step would be to vaccinate older people first, after healthcare workers,” Washington Examiner columnist Kaylee McGhee recently wrote. “Not only are older people more susceptible to the virus, they are also easier to track down because the majority of the over-65 population is enrolled in Social Security and/or Medicaid. Essential workers, on the other hand, vary in age and work in a variety of different professions, which means it will take much longer to determine who needs to be vaccinated.”

When the Biden administration takes over in 18 days, they seem inclined toward a more heavy-handed approach.

“I have directed my team to prepare a much more aggressive effort with more federal involvement and leadership to get things back on track,” Biden said this week.

We shall see if that’s effective. Many believe Trump’s overall approach is why America procured medical miracles in record time. It’s easy to criticize from the bleachers; sometimes reality hits you once you’re in the big chair.


A.J. Kaufman

A.J. Kaufman is an Alpha News columnist. His work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star, Israel National News, Orange County Register, St. Cloud Times, Star-Tribune, and across AIM Media Midwest and the Internet. Kaufman previously worked as a school teacher and military historian.