In recent weeks, Israel has found itself in the midst of one of the gravest medical crises it and its people have ever known.
Thousands of men and women, old and young alike, are hospitalized in critical condition in hospitals all over the country, fighting for their lives with every breath they take - while dozens die daily in the overcrowded coronavirus wards.
This crisis and the resulting tragedy leaves no one untouched: Be they the patients themselves, their families, or the medical staffers who have chosen their profession out of a deep sense of responsibility, and who are now forced to watch impotently as their patients’ lives slip away.
Make no mistake, the fight against the ravages of the virus is not the health system’s alone. This ongoing fight is taking place outside the walls of hospitals all across the country.
The fight includes the thousands of families who have lost their livelihood, the parents who must remain in isolation for their own good, and the children who cannot meet with their friends. We are all paying some sort of price.
And while the shadow of the pandemic weighs heavily on us all, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Israel’s vaccination drive, which now offers the coronavirus inoculation to all those above the age of 16.
Data shows that the vaccination, be it by Pfizer or Moderna, has lowered the hospitalization rate among those 60 and up, who were among the first in the country to receive the two doses of the vaccination.
Not only effective, the vaccine has also proven to also be safe. A follow-up of tens of millions of vaccinators, including in Israel, shows that the majority of the vaccine’s side effects - if they ever show up - are mild and transient.
The vaccine has also proven to be effective against the new virus variations, if not fully then at least partially. This is important since the new variants have begun affecting populations we thought were more immune to the virus, such as children.
Despite the attempts to limit the spread of the pathogen through nationwide closures and draconian restrictions, there is not one locality in Israel where the virus has not reached.
Thousands have died due to this terrible virus, and unless we work together, thousands more will die in the coming months.
From Thursday morning, every person above 16 was eligible to receive the vaccine, without which we will have an extremely hard time beating the pandemic.
Those receiving the vaccine will protect not only themselves, but those around them. Parents and educational staffers will protect the little children, while teenagers will protect their parents and grandparents.
The larger the number of vaccinated, the faster the spread of the disease will stop, and we will all be able to return to normal.
Up until now, the virus has been beating us. But thanks to the vaccines, we can now fight back and be victorious.
The authors are the directors of Rambam Healthcare Campus in Haifa, Shamir Medical Center in Be'er Ya'akov, Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan and Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem