Covid: What can the UK learn from Israel's vaccination success?

A worker receives a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at a medical centre in Tel Aviv Credit: AP

In one of the largest studies of its kind, Israel is reporting a huge 94% drop in symptomatic coronavirus infections.

It's biggest healthcare provider, Clalit, made the finding in 600,000 people who'd been vaccinated.

Researchers also discovered a 92% cut in severe illness from Covid-19 after two doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.

Many other nations battling the pandemic will surely be watching these exemplary results and its winning strategy with interest.

That, surely, must include the UK so what can we learn from Israel's success story?

Israelis getting the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at a mass vaccination centre. Credit: AP

Fast pace of vaccinations

Israel's vaccine rates are among the highest in the world with a 2.5 million people receiving two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine so far or more than a quarter of its population.

Not only that, but four in ten have received their first dose.

That trumps the UK's vaccination programme which, as of February 14, reached a total of 15 million people with one dose of the vaccine, just under a quarter of the population. Plus, a fraction of people have had a second dose here.

A 24/7 operation was also established in December, an idea which didn't take off in the UK.

Pfizer/BioNTech deal

Israel's deal with Pfizer for the vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech didn't come cheap.

Along with a financial agreement which saw the country pay £34 per jab, Pfizer was promised medical data detailing the impact of the inoculation on its whole population.

But that ensured enough vaccine for everyone over the age of 16 and that an inoculation blitz could continue uninterrupted without fear of supplies running dry.

Here, despite the roll-out yielding impressive results, there were teething troubles from the start and there were gaps in supply, holding back the operation.

Long queues at a vaccination centre in Israel Credit: AP

Digitisation of all patient information

Israel's mandatory healthcare service holds digital records for every patient, something that the NHS is working on with its ten year plan to computerise all records.

It meant that everyone eligible for the jab could quickly be reached at anytime of the day. It meant that appointments can be booked online and through the use of online apps.

They also used Whatsapp groups to alert people about expiring vaccines to avoid wasting the valuable drug.

'Green Passport' and anti-vax counter campaign

The prospect of a 'Green Passport' which will allow the vaccinated to eat in restaurants, travel and be exempt from quarantine helped persuade people to promptly take up the vaccine.

The country has also launched a fierce campaign to counter any anti-vaccine sentiment from spreading and preventing people from coming forward.

There are fears it's to blame for a recent slow down in the vaccination rate. It's invested millions of pounds to combat this and has set up a digital task force to hit back at anti-vaxxers getting in the way of the completion of the programme.

A man crosses a road next to a billboard calling for people to wear masks during a nationwide lockdown in Tel Aviv Credit: AP

Looming general election

President Benjamin Netanyahu is about to fight an election on March 23. He's under extreme pressure to lift the country out of an onerous third lockdown and is pinning his hopes on being re-elected on a successful jab roll-out.

The government in talks with Cyprus and other countries about travel corridors and is planning the reopening of gyms and hotels as soon as next week.

Restaurants could open in March to those who are fully inoculated or deemed immune.

The UK are very far from that idea and our roadmap out of lockdown looks set to trail way behind that of Israel.