Israel has expanded its Covid-19 vaccination campaign to teens aged 16 -18, in an effort to enable them to sit exams.
More than 25% of Israel’s population of 9 million have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine since December 19, the health ministry says.
Israel started with the elderly and others at high risk, but people aged 40 and over can also now get the vaccine.
It hopes to start reopening its economy in February.
The inclusion of 16 to 18-year-olds – with parental permission – is meant “to enable their return (to school) and the orderly holding of exams”, an education ministry spokeswoman said.
The matriculation exams that Israeli students sit at the end of high school play an important role in deciding where they will go to university. Their results can also affect their placement in the military, where many young Israelis do compulsory service.
However, the education ministry has said it is too early to say whether schools will reopen next month.
Israel started its rapid vaccination drive – the fastest in the world – in on December 19, reaching 10% of its population by the end of 2020.
The country has recorded more than 596,000 cases and 4,392 deaths with Covid-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
On January 24, the government said it would ban passenger flights in and out of the country from January 25 for the rest of the month, in an effort to halt the spread of new virus variants.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Other than rare exceptions, we are closing the sky hermetically to prevent the entry of the virus variants and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign.”
Foreigners have largely been blocked from entering Israel during the pandemic.
If you were offered a COVID-19 vaccine, would you take it? Research paints a mixed picture. In one poll mentioned by The Drum, 28% of 18- to 34-year-old respondents in the UK said they would reject a vaccine if offered one. However, marketers can play a major part in encouraging vaccine uptake.
Ultimately, the success of vaccines in helping to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a close will depend on how many people take them. Here is how pharmaceutical companies, medical providers and healthcare agencies could persuade members of the general public to do exactly that.
Vaccine hesitancy: a challenge predating the COVID-19 pandemic
You don’t have to look far beyond the COVID-19 picture to see examples of skepticism about vaccines in general. Such reticence has, in some instances, led an array of vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, to re-emerge.
In 2019, long before the current pandemic erupted, the World Health Organization ranked vaccine hesitancy among the ten leading threats to global health.
It’s unsurprising, then, that Glen Halliwell, business unit director at Publicis healthcare agency Langland, believes that government and health services must engage in “broad education” about the COVID-19 vaccine – including “what it is for, what it will protect you against, how to get it and how many injections are required to be protected.”
He added: “Critical here is ensuring we reach the members of the community where English is not their first language, or where cultural or religious concerns regarding vaccine ingredients may lead to some hesitation.”
What threshold do we need to reach to achieve herd immunity?
Lee Fraser, who has served as Digitas Health’s chief medical officer since 2014, insists: “In order for vaccines to be successful in ending the pandemic, we will need to get vaccination rates into the mid-70% range at a minimum.”
However, he warned: “In a climate where we have seen a decline in the public’s belief in science and erosion of fact in favor of social and public opinion, studies suggest only 60% of people are currently willing to get a vaccine.”
Which marketing strategies could help – and which probably wouldn’t?
While some individual vaccines have been given their own branding by marketers, WPP Health Practice’s international chief executive officer Claire Gillis says: “I actually think that the important brand is the corporate brand. Go to the doctor and ask for the ‘Pfizer vaccine’.”
Meanwhile, though the UK government’s reported attempt to apply patriotic livery to each AstraZeneca vaccine kit would unlikely have been of much use, the UK’s National Health Service has, more encouragingly, decided to partner with influencers to promote vaccine adoption.
Los Angeles County has a high level of infection of the disease, with nearly 13,000 new cases reported on December 29, and 227 deaths – bringing the number of those who have died with the disease to 9,782 to date.
The county’s vaccine chief Claire Jarashow told Bloomberg that officials were keen to make sure people came back for their second vaccine dose – as the paper document given to recipients is easily lost.
She said: “We just don’t have the capacity to be doing hundreds of medical record requests to find people’s first doses and when they need to get their second.”
Healthvana has a track record of handling sensitive patient data, having delivered millions of HIV test results to US patients in recent years.
However, there has been some resistance to the idea of a “vaccine passport”, which some fear could be used to deny entry to venues if people are unwilling to share personal medical information.
There are also some potential problems – such as not having the digital vaccine record on all phones, including Android users.
And there is no way to prove that the person holding the phone is the same person who received the vaccine, without some other identifier.
Those people might see this idea as a “hostile approach”, designed to withhold access to getting on board a flight, or attending an event.
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