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31 Dec, 2020 10:47

Accusations fly as hundreds of Covid jabs ‘spoil’ amid Israel’s ambitious mass inoculation drive

Accusations fly as hundreds of Covid jabs ‘spoil’ amid Israel’s ambitious mass inoculation drive

Israel’s mass vaccination campaign has hit a snag after local officials were forced to toss unused Covid-19 jabs, blaming red tape for the wasted doses. The country’s health ministry sees things differently.

In three southern cities, a total of 467 Pfizer jabs have been disposed of without being administered, Israeli media reported. In Dimona, Mayor Benny Biton said that out of this number, 212 shots were thrown away because the health ministry was too slow to respond to a request asking if people under the age of 60 could receive the unused jabs. It came after a medical facility in the municipality refused to inoculate individuals that weren’t prioritized to receive the drug. 

At the moment, the nationwide vaccination drive is focusing on the elderly, healthcare workers, and people deemed high-risk. 

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“It’s a scandal. I’m in favor of vaccinating people aged 65 [sic] and over first, but if they do not come, is it not a pity to throw away all vaccines?” the mayor told Israel’s Channel 13 News. 

Israel’s health ministry placed the blame on Biton, claiming that he failed to do enough to drum up interest in the vaccine. 

“The mayor was expected to use all his abilities in the municipality to bring in 212 people out of the city of 40,000 inhabitants, just as was the case in other cities with similar cases,” the ministry said in a statement. 

The ministry also claimed that it granted the mayor’s request, arguing that he could have salvaged the surplus doses if he had been more cooperative. 

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According to Israeli media, some other municipalities have struggled to find enough high-priority citizens to vaccinate, and have begun giving the shot to all age groups, seemingly ignoring government guidelines. 

An official quoted by Channel 13 said that the vaccine drive was “out of control” and that many cities and towns were being given more doses than they could properly administer.

Despite the hiccups, Israel has been hailed for its efforts to vaccinate its population against the virus. Since the initiative began on December 20, the country has aimed to vaccinate 150,000 people across 257 stations. 

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced on Thursday that nearly 800,000 citizens have received the jab so far. 

Israel hopes to vaccinate around 10 percent of its population of 9.2 million by the end of the week and expects to inoculate 2.25 million people by the end of January. 

The speed of the program has raised concerns that Israel could soon run out of doses if it fails to acquire a fresh batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech drug. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu billed the mass vaccination drive as a way to lift Israel out of lockdowns and other restrictive measures. The health ministry has confirmed that those who receive the jab will be issued a “green” passport which will “free people from isolation [requirement]” and “allow [people] to enter places that will still be restricted to other populations.”

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