“We are updating what it means to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Salman Zarka, Israel’s coronavirus czar.
The Israeli government is also coercing people into getting the COVID-19 booster doses. It is doing this by saying those who do not get the boosters will face restrictions on dining out, traveling and on other activities. (Related: Israel warns vaccine passport will expire in six months if residents don’t get COVID-19 booster dose.)
Lawmakers in the Middle Eastern country claim without evidence that getting everybody three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is the only way to avoid another economically devastating coronavirus lockdown.
“I don’t want to impose a lockdown and I will avoid a lockdown at all costs,” said Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz. “Everything is open – but we need masks and we need vaccines.”
Israel had one of the fastest mass vaccination programs in the world. This quickly propelled the country into becoming one of the world’s most vaccinated countries. But this did not prevent new COVID-19 cases from appearing, and by early June the number of new coronavirus infections in Israel started surging again.
Data published by the Israeli government showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the main COVID-19 vaccine the country uses, was just 16 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection for people who were fully vaccinated early in the year.
Despite the evidence showing the vaccines do not help prevent new COVID-19 cases, the Israeli government is still pushing through with plans to vaccinate as many people as possible and to give the fully vaccinated an additional dose of the vaccine.
As of Aug. 31, 62.4 percent of Israel has received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Another 5.7 percent of people have received just one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. No clear data is available regarding how many Israelis have received a booster dose. But Israeli officials claim over two million out of Israel’s population of 9.3 million have already received a third dose.
Israelis fear additional vaccination requirements could hurt the economy
Business owners in Israel are afraid that the additional COVID-19 vaccination requirement will result in unnecessary complications with their businesses.
Their main concern is how the change in vaccination status will affect holders of vaccine passports, known as the green pass. Israeli officials recently announced that holders of the green pass must get a third dose or risk their pass expiring.
Roy Shadur, a 5o-year-old restaurant owner in the city of Ramat Gan, said his customers have been dwindling since the green pass was instituted. This is because his customers prefer to order in rather than get the required vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests for their children who are not yet eligible to get a green pass.
“It’s just the part that hurts, without the medicine,” said Shadur.
“Why are we the first country to do this?” asked Tovatel Magen, 28, who works at a cafe in Jerusalem and disagrees with the booster doses. “They are doing experiments on us.”
If another lockdown were to occur, it is estimated that at least one out of every four small and medium-sized businesses in Israel will be significantly affected. This is according to Oded Chen, a top Israeli lawyer and expert in the field of insolvency and bankruptcy.
If restrictions are reintroduced, Chen said the expected debt value in businesses will reach an additional four billion Israeli New Shekels ($1.24 billion).
A lot of the businesses whose debt values will increase most likely barely survived the latest lockdown and are already operating at a deficit, and another lockdown could cause them to shut down completely.
In 2020 alone, around 24,000 debt and legal aid cases were opened, nearly 10,000 of which were related to bankruptcy and insolvency.
Learn more about the mass vaccination situation in Israel by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.