Israel adds pregnant women to list of priority Covid-19 vaccine recipients
Government extends lockdown by 10 days amid surge in infections despite world leading vaccination effort
Israel has included pregnant women among those getting priority access to Covid-19 vaccines, seeing no risk to them or their foetuses, a senior public health official said on Wednesday.
The decision followed the hospitalisation this week of several pregnant women with Covid-19 complications amid surging coronavirus contagions. At least one was put on a ventilator and her baby delivered by Caesarean section, Israeli media said.
Israel launched a vaccination drive on Dec. 19 with a focus on the elderly, those with risky medical conditions and some emergency workers. More than a quarter of its citizens have now received the Pfizer Inc. vaccine, health officials say.
"Today we are recommending that pregnant women, mainly those with high morbidity risk factors, get the vaccine," Nachman Ash, the national coordinator on the pandemic, told public broadcaster Kan radio. "We have put them on the priority list."
He said that despite the absence of research into the vaccination of pregnant women, "when looking at the biological logic, we assess that there is no risk to the pregnancy, no risk to the foetus".
A Pfizer spokeswoman said use of the vaccine on pregnant women is "a health regulatory organisation's decision."
The European drug regulator last month said the Pfizer vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, should be considered for pregnant women on a case-by-case basis.
So far, 2,256,154 people have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, putting Israel at the top of the list of countries who have vaccinated their citizens. Of them, 536,000 have also received the booster shot. On Wednesday the health ministry called on people aged 40 and above to register for vaccination.
Israel’s third lockdown, which went into effect Dec. 31, 2020 will be extended by 10 days, until Jan. 31, 2021 at midnight, according to a recent announcement by the Israeli government. The extension was approved yesterday by the Knesset, Israel's legislature body, and will go into effect immediately.
Despite the widespread Covid-19 vaccination campaign, numbers of those who have contracted the disease and later died of it are rising. If the current rate continues, by the end of the month Israel could be looking at 1,300 dead, instead of the 798 who have died since the beginning of January alone, according to recent statistical figures from the Israeli Ministry of Health. Since the beginning of the outbreak Israel has recorded 566,000 cases of Covid-19, of which 479,000 recovered, and 4,080 died.
Yesterday, 8,511 new people were diagnosed with Covid-19, with 9.2% of those tested showing positive results.
The Israeli Employment Service released new figures on Wednesday that showed that within the past day, 3,256 additional people have registered as unemployed, noting that since the beginning of the third lockdown on Dec. 31, there were 14,651 new registered job seekers. Some 115,000 Israelis are currently on unpaid leave, or furlough, which makes up 81.2% of those unemployed.