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Israeli PM kicks off national vaccination campaign with public jab

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Israeli Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a coronavirus vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020
Israeli Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a coronavirus vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020   -   Copyright  AMIR COHEN/AP
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off his country's COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Saturday night with a public jab.

Netanyahu said he would set a ''personal example'' and insisted on being the first Israeli vaccinated. He is also the first sitting Prime Minister publicly known to receive the vaccine.

He called it an ''exciting moment'' that would put Israel on the path to returning to normalcy.

The Israeli government aims to vaccinate some 60,000 people a day in a bid to curb the virus that is once again surging among its population.

The country will first immunize health workers, followed by the elderly, high-risk Israelis and those over 60 years old.

Israel says it has secured sufficient doses for much of the country's 9 million people from both Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccine US authorities approved this week for emergency use.

Political boost

The public jab also gave Netanyahu, who has come under heavy public criticism for his management of the coronavirus crisis, a political boost.

With daily infection numbers trending upward and currently notching just under 3,000 a day, Israeli leaders are again debating whether to impose a third national lockdown.

Many restrictions remain in place from the country's second lockdown in the fall, with most hotels still closed and restaurants open only for delivery and take out.

Netanyahu was lauded in the spring for sealing borders and locking down the country swiftly, a move that battered the economy but drove down infection rates. But a hasty and erratic reopening sent confirmed cases soaring in late summer, leading to what at the time was one of the world's worst outbreaks.

Israel has reported more than 368,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,000 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.