While several countries around the world face a new surge of COVID-19 cases and nations such as India struggling to get enough supplies to vaccinate their people, Israel is already reaching herd immunity.
Cases in Israel, have fallen from a peak of more than 8,000 a day, on average in mid-January, to just a few hundreds per day, with about 250 people currently hospitalised and 160 seriously ill. In just a few months, after launching a mass vaccination campaign, daily life has more or less returned to normal like the pre-pandemic situation.
With the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine passport system, Israelis may now go to gyms, restaurants, hotels, stadiums and theatres amongst others. The country has also lifted the restriction of wearing masks in the outdoors and the Israeli government has already entered into new deals with both Pfizer and Moderna for booster shots as more variants emerge.
The vaccination process was carried out very efficiently and priority was given to the sick and vulnerable. The country was also flexible to roll out vaccines to as many people as possible even for those in a good state of health. If there were a few leftover doses on certain days in some locations, because people would not show up for their vaccine appointment, they would be given to others.
So far, the benefits of reaching herd immunity seem to be vast. The country has not only recorded a dramatic fall in the rates of infections, but it has also prevented several hospital admissions and deaths, stopping the spread of new variants.
The government plans to eventually allow those vaccinated in Israel to travel freely and is also considering not to impose mandatory quarantine upon return. Certain medical experts however believe that if they do not monitor the situation closely it could be very risky, and Israel may fall prey to new variants.
On the other hand, when comparing with other countries such as the UK for instance, it is still far off to reach herd immunity. According to the National Statistics Office of the UK, only half of the population has COVID-19 antibodies, either from infection or vaccination. With that said, the UK is already seeing a drop in hospitalisations, deaths and big falls in infections and illness among the younger generation, which suggest that the vaccine is blocking transmission.