Israel will be the "first country" to emerge from COVID-19 thanks to a widely praised vaccine distribution plan that has led to most of its citizens being vaccinated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.
Israel leads the world in COVID-19 vaccinations, having fully vaccinated 56 percent of its population (which ranks No. 1) and having given at least one dose to 60 percent of its citizens (which ranks No. 2, behind the small island nation of Seychelles), according to the New York Times vaccine tracker. (Israel is using the Pfizer vaccine, which involves two shots.)
Its vaccination campaign is the fastest in the world.
By comparison, 23 percent of citizens in the United States are fully vaccinated and 37 percent have received at least one dose. The U.S. ranks seventh and sixth, respectively, in those categories.
As the vaccination rate has risen in Israel, the daily COVID-19 rate has plummeted to such a low level that so-called "COVID wards" in hospitals are closing due to few cases, the Jerusalem Post reported. On April 14, Israel's seven-day average for new cases fell to its lowest point since June.
"We're the first country in the world to emerge from Corona," Netanyahu told Fox News. "... We're [still] gonna have to wear a mask for some time, but we're behind it and we're also looking into the future, and we're saying, 'Let Israel become the world's center for producing the vaccines of tomorrow.' Vaccination nation – that's where we're going."
Israel's citizens, Netanyahu said, "understood that their health and their lives are dependent on" getting vaccinated. The vaccine distribution system, he said, was "tremendous."
More than 90 percent of Israelis over the age of 16 have been vaccinated, Netanyahu said.
"We're rushing toward herd immunity," he said. "... We're setting the model for the world. We're very proud of it."
Earlier this year, Israel launched a "green pass" program that allows citizens who have been vaccinated – or who have recovered from COVID-19 – to enter gyms, theaters, hotels, concerts and synagogues, The Post reported.
Asked what advice he would give the rest of the world, Netanyahu said, "Get vaccinated as fast as you can. And wear masks. … It's not a political question. This is what has to be done, and it should be done by everyone. It's your life."
In March, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also applauded the vaccine effort.
"The State of Israel is defeating coronavirus," Edelstein said. "All that remains is to follow the instructions so that coronavirus does not return."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Paul Biris
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.