There is practically no government or epidemiologist in the world who does not have an eye on Israel right now to know what to expect when the slow vaccination campaign finally takes off in the rest of the world.
Will the hospitals be emptied and we will forget the curves forever? Will mass parties, discos, concerts return? Will we achieve the long-awaited group immunity? Will bonfires of masks burn through the streets to celebrate the end of the pandemic?
Although it is still too early to even imagine a post-pandemic world, Israel, where half the population has already been fully vaccinated , can give us some clue as to what things could change (and which remain the same) when vaccination becomes widespread in Spain – currently coverage with two doses barely reaches 5% -.
Access to the vaccine is so common that it is not uncommon to find street stalls where to receive a puncture without prior appointment in leisure areas.
In this small country of almost 9 million inhabitants, practically all those who have wanted it have already received the two doses. If those under 16 years of age – in whom the vaccine has not yet been tested – and people in whom the drug is contraindicated are excluded, more than 90% of the ‘vaccinable’ population has already received their first dose .
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The Hebrew country has barely taken three months to complete its vaccination campaign, a speed without equal in the whole world that has only been possible due to a series of very specific factors: a small population spread over little territory, a highly digitized health system and What is more important: an exclusive and confidential agreement between Pfizer and the Government that has allowed the Hellenic country to receive doses in exchange for giving the multinational pharmaceutical company data on the process.
And the consequences of the process are clear. Infections, positivity, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths have plummeted after peaking at the end of January. In addition, the figures have not stopped falling despite the fact that the country has been gradually lifting an iron confinement decreed on December 27 of last year.
Now, those who have received the two doses of the vaccine or have overcome the infection can obtain a safe-conduct called green pass that can be carried on the mobile and with which to access bars, restaurants, football stadiums or nightclubs, yes, still with a mask and with restrictions on gauges and safety distances .
“People have taken to the streets with desperation and desire”
“The first weekend I was able, we went to have a drink and there was a feeling of euphoria. It seemed like the end of the year,” Marcela, a Tel Aviv resident, tells this newspaper. ” We meet friends who have not hugged in months. The feeling is euphoria,” he adds.
Although there are still restrictions in force, the trust among the population means that fewer and fewer are enforced. “More and more people are seen without a mask, more people pass by,” explains Alejandro, a young man in his twenties who enjoys an ICEX scholarship in that same city. “All the bars are full every day. People want to go out . ”
“People have taken to the streets with desperation and desire. We had been closed for many months, “says Ludmila, a Canarian and also a Tel Aviv resident, although she points out that if a Spaniard traveled to Israel, he might not notice a great difference with what is lived in the Peninsula.” Now there is a normality, which is not very different from the one you live in certain places in Spain , like Madrid “.
Access to the vaccine is so widespread in everyday life that it is not uncommon to find street stalls where you receive a puncture without an appointment in places such as shopping centers and entertainment areas.
“You go by car, they get you vaccinated and you continue on your way,” explains Jonathan, a Spaniard of Melilla origin living in Harish, a city located just over 100 kilometers north of the capital, Jerusalem. “What I have felt is that he who does not have a vaccine is because he does not want to”
The four Spanish speakers contacted by 20minutos.es have been vaccinated. “After getting vaccinated, I felt that I took a load off my shoulders,” says Marcela, who already sees a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
“At first I was a little reluctant [to the vaccine], but as it is, with the ease we have, it is going against the system. I still don’t know of anyone who has had a negative experience,” says Jonathan. ” That fear of thinking that you can get it you already have a little forgotten . There are always cases, but thinking that you can get it is like thinking about any other disease,” he concludes.
Next step, the end of outdoor masks
“Coping with the pandemic is an ongoing challenge. It is difficult to find the right balance between opening shops and education while maintaining a certain level of caution,” says Hagai Levine, Professor of Epidemiogy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and former President of the Israel Public Health Physicians Association.
“We believe that we should ease some restrictions, such as the obligation to wear a mask in open public spaces,” adds the epidemiologist. “New ethical and professional dilemmas arise, such as the green pass : should we open certain activities only to people who have been vaccinated and have little risk?”