Netanyahu calls Covid-19 vaccine ‘giant step for health’ as he becomes first Israeli to get Pfizer jab

Hoping to lead by example, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a jab of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in an event broadcast live, as the polls showed a high level of mistrust to the immunization drive among Israelis.

The ceremonial injection took place at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv on Saturday, with Netanyahu sticking to his earlier promise and becoming the first person in the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The PM was administered a shot of the immunization jointly developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Israel, which plans to begin the vaccination of the general public next week, has so far received 300,000 doses of the inoculation, but expects to be have acquired 3.8 million doses by the end of December.

“A small injection for a man and a giant step for the health of us all,” the PM said, rephrasing the iconic words spoken by the first man to set foot on the Moon, US astronaut Neil Armstrong. After receiving the jab, the Israeli leader said he was feeling “terrific.”

In launching the vaccination campaign, Israel was “leaving the darkness of the coronavirus” and setting off on a journey to “a great light,” Netanyahu said, as cited by the Times of Israel. The PM has faced harsh criticism and large-scale protests over his handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“If everyone cooperates, keeps to the rules and goes to get vaccinated, we’ll get out of this, and we could well be the first country in the world to emerge from this. Let’s do it together.”

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Netanyahu said that by becoming the first recipient of the coronavirus vaccine in the country, he wanted to set “a personal example so that all Israelis would go and vaccinate themselves.”

It remains to be seen if the populace will heed their leader’s advice and follow suit en masse. A new poll published on Friday suggested that the vast majority of Israelis were wary of getting vaccinated right away.

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The results of the survey, conducted by the Ynet News website, showed that less than 25 percent of Israelis were ready to receive a coronavirus shot immediately. Another poll, by Haifa University, published on Tuesday, put the number of those willing to be in the forefront at only around 20 percent. 

Nonetheless, according to the Ynet poll, some two-thirds of the Israeli population, or 64 percent, say they do plan to get the jab, albeit in the long run. This falls short of Netanyahu’s vision for all Israelis without exception to be vaccinated, however, and a poll last week by the newspaper Israel Hayom showed that a third, or 37 percent, of Israel’s citizens are planning to refuse the vaccination altogether.

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