JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Vaccination of Israelis over the age of 60 has reduced the rate of that age group getting COVID-19 by almost half and the number of serious cases in that cohort by more than a quarter in the last two weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
Israel began its vaccination program on Dec. 19 and has so far reached 35% of the 9 million population, the government says. It has set March as a target date for reaching 50% of the population in hope of outpacing high-contagion virus variants, but worries about ebbing turnout.
Netanyahu touted the success of the programme in televised remarks to his cabinet, which convened to discuss a proposed extension of a more than five-week-old national lockdown.
“Over the last 16 days, among those over age 60, there has been a reduction of 26% in hospitalisation for serious (complications) and an around 45% reduction in confirmed cases. This is a direct outcome of the vaccines,” he said.
Netanyahu has said that 95% of COVID-19 deaths in Israel – the total tally was 4,975 as of Thursday – have been among the over-60s.
According to the Health Ministry, 84% of the over 60s have now received the vaccine, made by Pfizer Inc. It did not immediately provide a more detailed breakdown of how many of these people had received both vaccine doses and when.
“Go get vaccinated. The vaccines work,” Netanyahu said.
(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Frances Kerry)