COVID19 update, Christmas Eve edition: vaccination sitrep from Israel

(1) Israel’s vaccination rollout started last Sunday. At this point, it focuses on age 60 and over (voluntary), plus medical personnel (somewhat less voluntary). As I explained in my previous post, the basic philosophy here is to quickly vaccinate the most vulnerable, in order to get maximum mortality mitigation for minimum vaccine doses.

As Mrs. Arbel is a few years older than me and hence qualified for the shot, she signed up, and today was her appointment. The first day the phone switchboard of our HMO crashed (all Israelis have to be enrolled in one of four licensed HMOs, as part of our socialized medicine system), but eventually she got through to a human and got an appointment for today. Meanwhile, the website and app of the HMO have been updated, and under “schedule appointment” is now a purple “Corona Vaccine” button if you are in the right age bracket.

The main purpose of the appointments is to determine in advance how many doses of the Pfizer vaccine to thaw out from -70°C storage prepare: the great temperature sensitivity of mRNA vaccines means that any vaccine not administered within 6h of thawing out and dilution needs to be discarded.

At any rate, we showed up at the vaccination site (an annex to the HMO clinic) about half an hour ahead of the scheduled time. Outside, one employee verified Mrs.’s details against the appointment list and the HMO’s database, while another administered a brief questionnaire: Are you currently ill? Do you have a cough or a temperature in excess of 38.5°C (about 101°F)? Have you ever had an allergic reaction against any vaccine? Were you administered any other vaccine in the past two weeks? (I had a flu shot, so I would have had to wait anyway.) I do not recall being asked about immune system conditions, but these would presumably have thrown up a red flag in the HMO’s database.

Check-in being done, the login clerk signed off on the questionnaire form and handed it to Mrs., and we were ushered inside into the waiting room. About 8 people were waiting, but turnover was very rapid. Within just a minute or two, Mrs. was called into the treatment room and got her shot.

and yes, the CDC is fine with gloveless administration (hat tip: Mrs. Arbel)
the lot expiration date, not in this picture, is March 2021 — of course, only in an ultracold storage and transport chain

Afterward, we were asked to wait for 15 minutes to rule out anaphylactic shock: we elected to wait outside. As we did so, a few walkups showed up without appointment: they were accommodated by the login clerk making impromptu appointments using the HMO’s phone app.

Mrs. noticed no side effects so far other than some mild swelling at the injection site, “much less than from a flu shot” (which she has been getting every year for the past three decades). Several older friends and acquaintances, who went in for their shots yesterday and today, reported similar experiences. One distant relative, a nurse, said she felt tired after her shot, but wasn’t sure whether it was from the vaccine or from a 12-hour shift at the hospital.

One friend, who went in on the first day, did notice that when seniors were brought in by their ‘Filipinit’ [live-in caregiver, often from the Philippines] at a polyclinic that didn’t look too busy, the caregiver was also offered the shot despite clearly not being over 60 (and accepted it): the extremely short shelf-life of the diluted vaccine may (sensibly) induce personnel to vaccinate people that otherwise wouldn’t be entitled yet, rather than let the precious shots go to waste.

(2) Quick updates:

  • sadly, my country has decided on a third (!) lockdown for two weeks, starting Sunday night, following an escalation in severe cases in hospital. By the time it ends, the most vulnerable population group should be up to their 2nd vaccine shots.
    With typical Jewish/Israeli black humor, the following parody on the Passover song Echad mi yode`a is making the rounds (hat tip: JCS):
    Arba, mi yodea? Arba, ani yodea. Arba bechirot, shlosha segarim, shtei rashei memshala [variant: shnei manot chisun], echad El-heinu, she-yishmor aleinu mi-ha-shamayim. [Who knows four? I know four: four elections, three lockdowns, two co-prime ministers [variant: two vaccine doses], one G-d, may He guard over us from the Heavens.]
  • (Hat tip: Mrs. Arbel.) Hungarian-born biochemist Katalin Kariko was unable to sustain an academic career in the US because all of her grant applications for mRNA therapy were shot down. Eventually she moved to the biotech industry, and is now a VP of BioNTech (the partner company of Pfizer for the mRNA-based COVID19 vaccine).

(3) To my Christian readers of the Western Communion, have a merry and healthy Christmas.

Secular humanists and others, have a merry Newtonmas 🙂

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