Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett warned of an impending storm of Covid cases and urged everyone over the age of 60 and medical personnel to obtain a second booster shot to protect themselves.
Naftali Bennett urged senior Israelis to protect themselves from the ‘Omicron wave’ of Covid with a fourth vaccine during a Sunday television address, saying that daily case tolls may soon approach record levels.
Bennett warned that illnesses will soon reach ‘50,000 per day,’ more than doubling Israel’s previous September peak of 22,000 cases. At the moment, the country is registering approximately 6,000 cases each day.
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However, he observed that Omicron instances are milder than those associated with prior Covid versions and that the fourth vaccine is primarily intended to prevent serious disease in the elderly.
This comes after Nachman Ash, Israel’s health ministry’s director-general, stated that the country is likely to achieve herd immunity during the Omicron wave via a combination of infection and vaccination.
Herd immunity refers to a population being protected against disease because a sufficient number of individuals have produced antibodies to combat it.
Once herd immunity is established, the virus should be able to spread less broadly because people are more difficult to infect, and even if people are infected, the disease should be milder because their bodies are prepared to resist it.
‘The (infection) numbers will have to be quite high to achieve herd immunity,’ Ash previously told 103 FM Radio.
‘This is achievable, but we do not want to achieve it by infection; rather, we want it to occur as a result of widespread vaccination.’
However, Salman Zarka, chairman of the health ministry’s coronavirus task group, cautioned that herd immunity was not assured, as experienced over the last two years demonstrated that some COVID-19 patients who recovered were later reinfected.
Israel was a world leader in Covid vaccinations, completing its initial roll-out quicker than the majority of other countries, allowing it to lift lockdown early in 2020.
However, it has now slipped well behind other countries in terms of total coverage, owing largely to low uptake among children and adolescents.
Israel has fully immunized approximately 64% of its total population, less than the EU average of 70% and significantly less than international leaders such as Portugal, which has vaccinated 90% of its population, and Spain, which has vaccinated approximately 80% of its people.
Vaccines produced to combat early Covid variations are believed to be significantly less efficient at preventing the spread of Omicron – a super-mutant variant of the virus that is more difficult for the immune system to recognize.
They are, however, believed to be extremely successful at preventing major sickness and death, which is why world leaders are encouraging their populations to receive boosters.
Since it was initially identified in South Africa in November last year, Omicron has caused global Covid cases to skyrocket, with an average of just over one million cases recorded each day between Dec. 24 and 30, according to Reuters data.
Deaths, on the other hand, have not increased to the same extent, increasing expectations that the new form is less lethal and may presage the pandemic end game,’ in which Covid becomes a low-level endemic disease comparable to flu.
Bennett said that as Israel braces for an Omicron wave, testing eligibility might be limited to alleviate long queues at testing stations.
Israel also approved Merck & Co.’s antiviral tablet Molnupiravir for use in COVID-19 patients over the age of 18.
The medication has been demonstrated in studies to significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death in at-risk people who contract the virus.
Another study estimated the rate to be significantly lower, approximately 30%.
Israel also announced last month that it had placed a 100,000-unit order for Pfizer’s Paxlovid antiviral tablet, which is indicated for patients aged 12 and older who are at risk of serious disease.
Since the pandemic began, Israel has documented approximately 1.3 million coronavirus cases.
However, according to Eran Segal, a data scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and a government consultant, between two and four million people may be infected by the end of January, when the Omicron wave may wane.
Daily infections have more than doubled in just ten days. Severe cases have also increased, but at a far slower rate, from approximately 80 to approximately 100.
In Germany, the chairman of the country’s association of senior hospital physicians stated that the Omicron strain might alleviate burden on the country’s health system if it proves to cause milder sickness, even while infection rates continue to rise.