The nation of Israel, which stands head and shoulders above most others in the race to vaccinate its citizens against the coronavirus before variants could take hold, announced that it had zero Covid-19 deaths last Thursday.
Coupled with plummeting numbers of new infections nationwide, the news serves as proof that a swift vaccination rollout does have almost immediate results, which can help societies reopen their economies once again.
The rate of new infections is the lowest it has been in almost a year, and even the wearing of outdoors masks has now been scrapped.
The country, home to 9,053,000 people — nearly the same population as Greece — has averaged less than ten coronavirus-related fatalities each day in the last months, according to studies by Johns Hopkins University and the Israeli government.
In January, the country was experiencing over 70 deaths associated with the virus each day.
According to a report in Forbes, the last time Israel had seen a day with no coronavirus deaths was in June of 2020.
In news that bodes well for the future, current infection rates there are also extremely low at present, with approximately 120 new confirmed infections per day on average.
This constitutes an enormous improvement over the more than 8,000 cases per day that the nation was chocking up in mid-January of this year.
As of the last week of April, 99.1% of Israelis who are age 90 and over have received at last one dose of coronavirus vaccine.
And other age cohorts are not far behind, with all those over 60 — those who are most at risk of dying with Covid-19 — now having inoculation rates over 60%.
The Israeli government is now able to reward its citizens by allowing them to not only patronize indoor restaurants and attend concerts and other events indoors, it has also removed its measure calling for outdoor mask wearing as well — as long as people are fully vaccinated.
All Israeli schools reopened this past week as well.
Israeli borders once closed to returning citizens, stranding many
But this happy situation didn’t come without some difficult decisions — which were made and adhered to by the Israeli government at the beginning of this year, regardless of the blowback it received from its citizens.
In March, Israel finally eased its restrictions on air travel into the country, enabling thousands of its own citizens to return home, abolishing the measure that had called for all those who did return to the country to stay in state-run quarantine hotels.
The borders of the country had been closed for the most part since January 25, leaving thousands of Israelis unable to return home.
Ben Gurion Airport was shuttered for all but a few special flights by Israeli and some foreign airlines during those few months — which may have allowed the small country to shield itself against the variants which raged throughout Europe during that same time.
Although there were special flights arranged to bring back some citizens who had been stranded abroad, special permission for doing so had to be granted by the Israeli government — on a case-by-case basis by a special committee.
Infection rates far below most other nations
Israel’s infection rate, which is now hovering at approximately 15 new daily cases per million people, is far well below that seen in other developed countries, such as the United Kingdom (37), the United States (187), Canada (228) and France (463).
Only the UK and the US have even remotely come close to Israel’s lightning-fast vaccine rollout, but the presence of the variants in those countries still poses the largest threat, as authorities race to vaccinate as many people as possible before the mutations can make any further inroads.
As of now, approximately 59% of Israelis have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, ahead of every single other country in the world aside from tiny Bhutan and the Seychelles Islands, according to a report from Bloomberg.
In the UK, 33 million residents have now received at least one dose and in the US the corresponding number is 94.8 million, with 29% of the populace fully vaccinated.
Israel has been in the forefront of the global vaccination race for months now — making the entire country, in essence, one giant laboratory for testing the efficacy of the inoculations, especially that developed by Pfizer.
Its manageable size and its finely-tuned HMO network allowed the inoculation program to be carried out at a frenetic pace in Israel, with the government securing the precious vaccine from Pfizer very early on.
Only rarely has the South African strain shown any resistance to the Pfizer product there, with the vast majority of Israelis showing near-complete protection against illness and death after vaccination, giving concrete hope to other nations which are currently struggling with vaccine hesitancy amongst their populations.
“Highway to normalcy is vaccination”
As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said last Monday, “We all want normalcy in America. The highway to that normalcy is vaccination — very similar to what Israel has done and is doing. We can get there.”
The infection rates in America remain stubbornly high despite great success in vaccinating large swaths of the population. With 41.3% of the population having at least one vaccine dose, vaccine hesitancy in the South is still an ongoing issue.
Canada is dealing with a series of missteps in its own vaccine rollout, with the province of Ontario, home to the nation’s capital city of Ottawa, presently locked down due to a surge in cases.
Not only did Israel get the vaccines into as many arms as possible, it also barred entry to many thousands of its citizens and kept its strict lockdown measures in place during the dark days of the past Winter, not relenting until the infection rates had plummeted.
All these efforts now appear to have combined to forge a true success in the ongoing global war against Covid-19.