Israel closes its borders to prevent contagion by the omicron variant

JerusalemThe threat of the new variant B.1.1.529 of the covid-19, called omicron by the WHO, has led the Israeli government to decree the closure of its borders. In an unprecedented decision around the world, Prime Minister Naftalí Bennet has decided this Saturday midnight to ban the entry of all foreigners for 14 days, regardless of the country they come from. As of Monday, only Israelis will be able to enter the country, but they will have to perform a quarantine of at least three days and submit three negative PCRs. So far only one case of omicron has been detected in Israel (a traveler from Malawi) although there are seven suspects. Bennett said the country was “on the brink of an emergency” and that “the key is caution and minimal risks.”

Israel was the fastest OECD country to have more than 50% of the population vaccinated against covid-19, around March 2021. It inoculated more than 130,000 weekly doses in January, was one of the first states in the world to start descaling and avoided confining the population during the fourth wave. Now, despite having 69% of the population immunized, it is experiencing signs of growth in infections and is worried about a possible fifth wave and the emergence of the new variant.

Last Tuesday, Professor Eran Seagal, a computer biologist at the Weizmann Institute, warned during a meeting of the Israeli government’s covid cabinet that the level of immunity of the population has begun to fall and that the number of people infected by each infected person. called R– is rising. It has gone from 0.86 in early November to about 1.09. The reasons? That a large part of the population received the second dose of the vaccine more than six months ago and that the majority of those infected (49%) belong to a group that had not been vaccinated so far: children.

“It has been shown that two doses of the vaccine are not enough to prevent infections and that they lose their effectiveness over time, although they protect more than non-vaccination,” Professor Cyrille Cohen told ARA , a member of the advisory committee for clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines of the Israeli Ministry of Health. “It’s early to know if there will be a fifth wave, but the increase in R in Israel is real, it’s not a matter of a day or two.”

Faced with this situation, the country has been promoting a booster dose for the entire population since July, as well as vaccination among children aged 5 to 11 from this past week. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned during the pandemic, it’s that vaccination is the best way to protect ourselves from the virus,” said Dr. Arnon Afek, interim director of Sheba General Hospital – Israel’s largest – and former director general of the Ministry of Health. “All people over the age of five should be vaccinated and everyone who is more than six months old from the second dose should receive a booster,” he says emphatically.

Vaccines for children and third dose

Meanwhile, a million “child-sized” Pfizer vaccines have arrived in Israel in recent days, and the government has launched an intense campaign to convince parents to vaccinate their children. Prime Minister Bennett himself accompanied his 9-year-old son David last Tuesday to receive the first dose. “This protects both children and parents, and the whole state of Israel. I ask all Israeli parents to bring their children to be vaccinated, ”he said.

Experts point out that it will still take a long time to get all children protected with at least two doses. Cohen is also “concerned” about the arrival of the Hanukkah festivities, as there will be “high concentrations of unvaccinated people, especially children.” The government has not raised any new restrictions during the holiday, which began yesterday Sunday and will last until December 6, but they have not been ruled out either. “We have to be vigilant,” says Cohen.

As for the booster vaccine, more than 4 million Israelis have already received it and hospitalizations among them are minimal. “Those who receive a third dose are 93% less likely to be hospitalized than those who only have two, and 80% less likely to die,” said Cohen, co-author of a study published in the scientific journal. The Lancet on the impact of the booster dose on Israel. “What stopped the fourth wave in Israel was the reinforcement dose. It was a pioneering decision in the world and it didn’t have much international support, but we did it and it worked “, confirms Dr. Afek.

Follow the example of Israel

The European Medicines Agency has this week approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 5 to 11 years in an adapted dose, one-third of what is usual for adults. And the European Commission asked to bet on the third in adults over 40 years. “Israel is taking a step forward in this, because we put the first two before anyone else, so what European countries should do is follow in our footsteps,” says Afek. “If Europe had put a dose of reinforcement before, it would not have the problems it now has in Germany or Austria,” he added.

“Spain has had very good vaccination figures, but you should know that vaccines are losing effect. Don’t expect an increase in infection figures to put the third dose in, ”adds Cohen, who says that as long as the virus continues to circulate in Israel or abroad, reinforcements will have to be put in place. “Will we stop needing reminder vaccines? I do not know. It’s a new virus, and this is a marathon, ”he concludes.

The shadows of the Israeli vaccination system

More than 8,180 people have lost their lives in Israel due to covid-19. There are about 6,800 active cases and more than a hundred serious patients. The country has experienced three confinements and has been closed to tourism until November 1. Despite being vaccinated faster than anyone in the world, the percentage of the population with at least two doses has been stagnant for months and does not exceed 70%. In Spain it is 81%. The country has also been heavily criticized for managing the pandemic in the occupied territories. Palestine took a long time to receive the doses and, for the time being, has only 40% of the population vaccinated.

Source: – Portada by

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