Israel says it has vaccinated one million people – more than a tenth of its population – against COVID-19, as it rolls out one of the world’s earliest and most rapid inoculation campaigns.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein hailed the millionth vaccination on Friday in Umm al-Fahm, a predominantly Arab city in the country’s north.
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Netanyahu called it a moment of “great excitement”.
Israel has administered the first dose of vaccine to more than 10 percent of the population, according to Edelstein, less than two weeks after the launch of its inoculation campaign.
The goal is to vaccinate 5.5 million people in the country of 9.3 million, Netanyahu said.
On Thursday alone, Israel gave the jab to about 153,400 people, according to the health ministry.
More than 40 percent of those aged above 60 in the country have received the first of two injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population. They have Israeli citizenship and the right to vote but face discrimination in housing and other areas, contributing to widespread mistrust of authorities.
Netanyahu said “it’s important for me that the Arab public in Israel will get vaccinated quickly” because “it’s saving lives”. He delivered the same message at a vaccination centre in Tira, another Arab town, on New Year’s Eve.
According to Oxford-based researchers, Israel is vaccinating its population at a speed unmatched anywhere else in the world.
A graphic on the website Our World in Data comparing the number of people vaccinated in each country per 100 residents showed a clear lead for Israel at 11.55, accurate as of Friday – even if the country lags behind countries like the United States and China in absolute numbers.
Coronavirus infections have surged in Israel recently despite a third partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread. It has reported more than 426,000 cases and at least 3,338 deaths since the pandemic began.
On Friday, the health ministry added 5,804 new infections to the total. That was only slightly less than Thursday’s daily rise of 5,831 – the strongest increase in Israel since October.
The health ministry has called for restrictions to be intensified starting on Sunday.