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Health, Education ministries clash over strategies for life with COVID

CM 28/07/2021

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The expert committee advising the Health Ministry was scheduled to meet on Wednesday night to decide whether to recommend that the Israeli elderly are given a third coronavirus vaccine.
The experts were expected to greenlight the move despite the fact that the booster has not yet received the authorization of the US Food and Drug Administration or any other major health agency.
According to reports in Israeli media, the new vaccination campaign could start as early as next week, initially targeting individuals over 70 who have been inoculated more than six months ago, and shortly after starting with people over 60.
The pharmaceutical company Pfizer, who has provided the vast majority of vaccines Israel has used, reportedly assured that if Israel decides to give a booster, it will guarantee the necessary vaccine supply.
In a report to his investors published on Wednesday, the company said that the ongoing clinical trial for the booster given at least six months after the second dose has shown the jab is well tolerated and triggers a level of antibodies five times higher than after the second shot in young people and eleven times higher in older people. More data are expected to be published in the upcoming weeks.

Also on Wednesday, Israel registered over 2,000 new virus carriers for the second day in a row as health and education officials continued to quarrel over the strategies to contain the new wave of the pandemic while preserving daily life in the country.
On Sunday, the Education Ministry presented an outline for the upcoming school year with a focus of widespread testing as the tool to contain mass outbreaks – rather than remote learning capsules and quarantine.
Among others, the plan included a special isolation system tailored for schools, allowing students and teachers exposed to a verified case to return to their classrooms after 48 hours and a negative test. The proposal was strongly rejected by health officials.
Since then, verbal attacks between officials and members of the coronavirus cabinet have escalated.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister  Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Health Ministry’s Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash expressed their support to Public Health Services head Prof. Sharon Alroy-Preis after the attacks by anonymous members of the coronavirus cabinet reported on Channel 13 on Tuesday night.
“Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis is a dedicated and professional public servant who works around the clock for the health of the citizens of Israel,” Bennett said. “She is working responsibly and practically, and is helping us to lead the response to the pandemic. The personal attack against her is unworthy and unacceptable. Sharon has full backing for her activity.”
Many blamed Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton for the incident. The minister had reportedly expressed harsh criticism against Alroy-Preis in the past.
According to Israeli media, other ministers accused Shasha-Biton of being unreasonable and refusing to engage in constructive dialogue, including because she opposes carrying out a vaccination campaign for children in schools.
“The unprecedented campaign, statements and slander that have been going on against me in recent days will not deter me,” the minister said in a statement. “The public should worry that anyone who presents a different approach to the struggle against corona is immediately labeled as denying the plague. I’m happy to say that many experts and ministers share my view that we need to live alongside corona.”
Shasha-Biton stressed that there are very few school days in September, because of the Jewish holidays and therefore the Health Ministry should focus on bringing more people to get vaccinated in the upcoming weeks before the school year starts.
Some 2,260 new cases were registered on Tuesday, a four-month record, with 2.38% of the 95,624 tests returned a positive result – a month earlier the rate stood at 0.7.
In addition, some 149 patients were in serious condition as of Wednesday night, four more than 24 hours earlier and 72 more than the previous Wednesday. Some 29 of them were on ventilators.
More than half of the cases, and about one thirds of patients in serious condition were fully inoculated. The vast majority of such patients are elderly or individuals with pre-existing conditions, for whom the immunity is believed to have started to wane.
Starting from Thursday, any gathering or activity with more than 100 participants will start functioning under the Green Pass outline, allowing access only to individuals who are fully vaccinated, recovered or who have undergone a coronavirus test in the previous 72 hours. Children under 12, who are not eligible for the vaccine, are exempt. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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