Opinion: There is no current need for change in Health Ministry strategy but urgent steps must be taken to reduce risk of variants entering through Ben-Gurion Airport and spreading among population, and as more children are infected, the need to vaccinate young teens is growing
A teenager reacts while receiving a dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a Tel Aviv clinic, June 21, 2021(Photo: Reuters)
The recent outbreaks of coronavirus in Israel are a cause for concern and should set off warning lights. Primarily, they are another reminder of how cautious we need to be when dealing with the virus and how statements made in full confidence one day can be found to be wrong on the next.
Thanks to a very successful vaccination drive, the country was largely able to resume normal life. The Pfizer vaccine appears to be effective in blocking the Delta variant and a large enough segment of the population is seen as immune to the disease.
Health officials should respond quickly when outbreaks are detected with testing, isolation and perhaps the renewed use of masks in indoor locations.
But urgent action must be taken at the Ben-Gurion International Airport, the country’s main point of entry.
The challenge of protecting the borders from COVID-19 variants is a complex one. A considerable expansion of testing capabilities is needed, and masks must be compulsory inside the airport.
Israelis must understand that travel with children or others who have not been vaccinated poses a risk not only to those who are traveling but to others as well should the contagion spread.
Many parents may have preferred to wait to have their young teens vaccinated, so that more data could be collected and especially because there was less of a sense of urgency given Israel’s low morbidity.
But as more children are becoming infected, the need to vaccinate young teens is growing. Perhaps the imminent end of the academic year and the long summer holiday will lead to a drop in the number of cases.
There is no need to amend Health Ministry policies but that could change quickly. If contagion spreads, some mitigation measures would have to be reinstated.
Regardless of how much has already been learnt about COVID-19, health professionals are still far from knowing enough.
Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov is a former director-general of Israel’s Health Ministry