Green passport: “No longer relevant”: Israel could abolish the vaccination certificate in February

Fourth Vaccination in Israel

Anyone who wants the fourth shot must be over 60 or exposed to the virus at work.

(Foto: Bloomberg)

Tel Aviv No country has procured vaccine doses faster than Israel and in no other country was such a large part of the population immunized against Corona so quickly. Despite this, Israel now has the highest infection rate in the world. That’s why, say health experts, a new strategy is necessary that should take into account the dominance of the omicron variant.

For example, the restrictions related to the vaccination certificate, which expire on February 1, are unlikely to be extended. Without proof that there are epidemiological reasons for an extension of the “Green Passport”, the certificate will become obsolete, says the chairman of the parliamentary commission for constitution and law, Gilad Kariv. The concept of the vaccination certificate is “no longer relevant,” agrees epidemiologist Cyrille Cohen, epidemic adviser to the Israeli government.

With the introduction of the certificate, one of the aims was to create an incentive to vaccinate. That is no longer necessary today. Since the introduction of the certificate, two thirds of the population have been vaccinated twice or three times. It is considered highly unlikely that the Green Passport will be an incentive to vaccinate those who have not previously been vaccinated. The vaccination pass is only medically authorized in retirement homes or hospitals, because the effects of infection can be particularly dramatic there.

According to Ran Balicer, another advisor to the Ministry of Health on the coronavirus, certificates are not effective because of omicron because vaccinated people can also become infected and infect others. Therefore, the infection is neither slowed down nor stopped if a green pass is required to enter rooms. The omicron variant is known in specialist circles as the immune escape variant. It bypasses the body’s already existing immune responses. Nevertheless, the vaccination protects against a severe course.

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Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman is also in favor of an end to mandatory certificates because it is bad for the economy. He is working with all relevant parties to abolish the Green Passport “to protect our normal daily routine”.

Measurement and test behavior should change

The new situation assessment also includes a look at the corona statistics. Experts say that the daily reporting of the number of cases is less meaningful than at the beginning of the pandemic two years ago for three reasons. First, “a great many” are vaccinated. Infected people also often have only mild symptoms and could be treated.

Third, even if the omicron variant that dominates today is extremely contagious, it leads to fewer hospitalizations than the delta variant. That’s why Cohen suggests, “What we should be measuring is how many of the patients are hospitalized in a serious condition, not how many have tested positive.”

The test regime is also being adjusted in Israel: PCR tests are only intended for risk groups, such as senior citizens or people with a previous illness. Because tests overwhelm the health system for everyone, the government relies on rapid tests at home.

In doing so, the state is returning to citizens some of the responsibility for managing the health crisis that it has claimed since the outbreak of the pandemic. Personal responsibility also means that people should have the freedom to choose whether or not to be vaccinated, says epidemiologist Cohen.

The Israeli Ministry of Health this week approved that all adults can receive a second Covid-19 booster shot. The only requirement: they must declare that they are exposed to the virus at work. They don’t have to provide proof of this.

>> Read here: Despite double-digit billion sales: Uncertainty among corona vaccine manufacturers is growing

Previously, the government had only recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to those over 60. Unlike before, it is not exerting any indirect pressure. With the second booster, people are three times more resistant to serious diseases than people of the same age group who have only been vaccinated three times, says the Ministry of Health. Despite the second booster, Israel is implicitly banking on herd immunity, hoping that widespread infection will strengthen the population’s protection against the virus.

In Israel, too, Covid-19 cases have skyrocketed due to omicron. However, there were hardly any deaths from this variant. However, Cohen does not want to rule out the possibility that new virus variants will appear. It is therefore still too early to speak of an end to the pandemic: “We remain at the mercy of new variants.” Nevertheless, he hopes “that we are in the transition phase to a pandemic”. Corona would then be like the flu.

More: This is how high the corona vaccination rate is in Germany and worldwide

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