Me, my wife, and my friends wanted to get vaccinated with the fourth coronavirus vaccine shot last week because at the end of January it will be six months since we had our first booster. But we didn't have the option, because the Health Ministry hadn't approved the second booster until the next morning.
I was vaccinated with the second booster in July 2021, which effectively means that I am no longer immune against coronavirus and its newest highly contagious Omicron strain.
There are millions of Israelis like me, whose Green Passes are no longer "green". But the decision-makers in Israel continue to drag their feet on the approval of the second booster for the general public.
Although Director General of the Health Ministry Prof. Nachman Ash on Sunday officially approved the fourth vaccine, it is only available for people above 60 and medical teams. And why did Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announce the decision instead of Prof. Ash himself? Isn't is something that is supposed to be decided upon by health experts?
The conclusion of a statistical study published by the UK Health Security Agency on the effectiveness of booster jabs against Omicron is pretty obvious. Some five months after receiving the second or third vaccine, their efficiency drops to zero. And there's no scientific reason to believe that the findings will be different on vaccine's ability to prevent serious illness or hospitalization.
So, what does it mean for us? It means that only some 2.5 million Israelis over the age of 12 are actually protected against Omicron. That's why Health Ministry officials claim that Israel is turning rapidly into a country of the unvaccinated.
This is why Bennett was quick to warn us about "millions of Israelis" who will likely get infected with Omicron throughout the course of this infection wave.
Let's make clear what such a mass contagion wave means: Loss of control over the pandemic; massive burden on hospitals; high mortality, people missing work (including those holding vital positions), a spontaneous shutdown of the economy that will exceed the cost of a potential lockdown, and severe damage to the economy.
Contrary to a popular opinion that Omicron causes "mild" illness, its effects vary depending on the country. The Israeli government is not compelled to take the same wrong path as the Americans and the British. A lot of countries did manage to stop the Omicron spread by implementing stringent measures.
Therefore, Israel doesn't have to accept the outcome of this wave as inevitable, Bennett's government has the option to respond differently.
Firstly, immediately approve the fourth vaccine jab for all Israelis who received the third dose at least five months ago.
Secondly, declare a lockdown for ten days. A real lockdown, like the one that was back in 2020, which would include compensation for businesses and employees on unpaid leave.
The lockdown will stop the spike in the contagion rate, reduce the average number of secondary infections produced by a single virus carrier, and it will help ease the burden on COVID wards across our hospitals. The economic cost of the lockdown, as proven by international studies, is significantly less than the cost of a mass contagion, which we mistakenly call "herd immunity".
Thirdly, announce the intention to enact a mandatory vaccination law. And meanwhile, give fines for vaccine refusers, the message itself will encourage many people to get vaccinated.
The government of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen not to surrender to the Alpha variant of COVID. Bennett's government chose not to surrender to the Delta variant. Therefore, the current battle against Omicron is certainly not lost yet, and it should not be considered unwinnable.
Israel, and its public, don't have to give up.