Israel has administered two doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than half its 9.3 million population, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday, a rapid roll-out that has helped the country begin emerging from pandemic closures.
Distribution of Pfizer Inc's vaccine in Israel began in December, with eligibility extended to citizens and residents over 16. People who receive it are deemed fully protected a week after the second shot.
In a statement announcing the milestone amid a sustained drop in new COVID-19 cases, Edelstein called on citizens "to follow (health) guidelines so that the coronavirus does not return".
Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians as part of its population and has been providing them vaccines. It has also offered vaccines to Palestinians who work in Israel and settlements in the West Bank.
Palestinian health officials have launched a limited vaccination program in the West Bank and Gaza using doses provided by Israel, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported Thursday morning, 470 new coronavirus cases had been diagnosed a day earlier, with an infection rate standing at 1%. The ministry said that on Wednesday, 45,007 COVID tests had been conducted.
At least 482 patients are in serious condition, of whom 189 are ventilated.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel last March, 6,157 people have lost their lives due to the pathogen.