I’m very pleased to present another excellent guest post from our good friend and fellow shitlord, Dawn Pine aka The Male Brain. Dawn lives in southern Israel, and his country is currently the world’s biggest inoculation lab experiment for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against General Tso’s Chicken Pox. As such, he is in a unique position to tell us how Israel’s attempts to contain the WuFlu are going. Dawn gives us a field report explaining how the population is reacting to the lockdowns, the political instability, the proliferation of the vaccines, and the general information about the Kung Flu itself. Dawn’s points below hold both hope and warnings for all of us as governments around the world go balls-out to vaccinate their populations with untested solutions.
Much gratitude as always to Dawn for his excellent contributions and for this important addition to the discussions about the current crisis.
Report on the first nationwide vaccination campaign
Following a request from our host Didact, I have provided my thoughts and a report on what’s happening in Israel. It is one of the first nation to begin a nationwide vaccination campaign, and it is probably the most advanced with regards to percentage of inoculated persons.
Israel is a special case. It is an “Island Country”. It is not an island per se, but its land borders have no traffic through them. To give you an indication, in 2019 the total amount of “visitors” was 4.5 million people, out of which only 0.54 million came via the land borders (~12%). Almost all of the entries were via the airports. In 2020 (incomplete for December stats) the ratio was around the same figure (~10.5%).
Moreover, Israeli health organisations are far reaching and, due to its small geographical size, reach almost all of the population of Israel. By law you are required to join one of four health insurance and medical organisations. Israel is known for its very good health care, and reaching all of the citizens (e.g. due to war) is possible.
Israel’s government policy of managing the “scandemic” was so-so. Israel is currently in a political crisis (we are going to have our fourth election in 2 years), as there is no stability since the public can’t make up its mind between the right and the center (the left is almost non-existent). The media has been doing its best to undermine… well, just about anything. The other day, I noticed that, in back-to-back interviews, the same reporter asked one politician why is he not supporting lock down and if he wants people to die. The next politician was asked the opposite question – why is he for lockdowns, as they hurt the economy. This was a classic case of “make up your mind”.
One last thing – Israel purchased the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine. Moderna’s will be here by February, and one of our own is being developed by The Israel Institute for Biological research (IIBR). It’s only in phase 2, but it is getting traction in the local media. There appears to be no intention of procuring the Russian one.
The first reaction of the people I have noticed is RELIEF. One of the guys I work with told me can’t wait to get the vaccine since he loves scuba diving and wants to go abroad. I have seen some of his underwater photos and know he is keen on that. He is a good example to what a lot of people think. They believe that within a few months, restrictions will be lifted, once we get to the holy grail of “heard immunity”. People have been talking about it endlessly in the last month and keep on talking. We all know that hope is a powerful emotion.
The opposite reaction is one of DISBELIEF. One of the girl I’m seeing (yes, THAT one) is into conspiracy theories (to some extent). There are a lot of people who share disbelief to the establishment. Let’s face, the establishment have earned that. A survey showed that about 30-50% of the Israelis want to either wait and see, or not get the vaccine altogether. That is a high number and in some case ~25% say that they don’t want the vaccine – no matter what.
I tend toward the disbelief bunch, but with moderation. I, as well as a nice portion of the population, want to wait and see. Currently the stats show that 1 in 1000 suffer some sort of problem related to the vaccine. [The Israelis are vaccinating 150,000 people a day with at least one dose per person – which indicates that around 150 people EVERY DAY are suffering adverse reactions. DO. THE. MATH. – Didact.] The funny thing was when someone passed away 2 hours after getting the vaccine, and the health ministry insisted it is not related. Almost the same day. My take on this is that if this is not related (it can be), they should also not register people with background illnesses as COVID deaths. But that is just me.
Recently the government decided on another strict lock-down. Israelis are notorious for being insubordinate and disobedient (as a group). [Pretty much the entire Old Testament’s history books consist of God punishing Israel’s disobedience – Didact] There were mass wedding parties in the ultra-Orthodox community and Arab villages. People party either in houses or outdoors and that frustrates the hell out of the health ministry. That is the main reason they keep pushing for lockdowns.
Now, the sentiment with respect to the first lockdown (March-April) was one of compliance, in general. People were unsure what was going on, and a small team headed by the prime minister took swift decisions. Sometimes they weren’t good, but they were still making decisions. People were focusing on getting tested (and were pulling strings to get that, as testing facilities were scarce).
But the sentiment in the second lockdown (September-October) was different. People were less afraid and more outraged. The health ministry GM warned that if you visit family over the holidays (Jewish holidays are around Sep-Oct), you’ll be stuck there for 2 weeks. That was complete nonsense, and people knew it. People were focusing on how to exclude themselves (as a sector) from the lockdown.
The third lockdown started late December. That was more of a semi-lockdown. First, schools were excluded (schools were open) and second, people still went to work. So it was a Swiss cheese kind of lockdown. People are now focusing on getting the vaccine.
Now, however, yet another election is coming up. This means that next month (probably) we will see an easing up of restrictions, as an election bribe. Moreover, Israel is vaccinating at a rate of ~700,000 a week, so if the pace keeps up by the end of the month about 25% of the population will have received their 2 shots and therefore will be “immune”.
The only thing “holding them back” is the amount of vaccines, for now. The next hurdle will be public resistance. The Israeli government has yet to come up with coherent plan of “rewards”. There is way too much talk about “punishment” – people who don’t want to be vaccinated will have trouble going abroad, going to shows and may even lose social security. All talk, all illegal and creates massive resentment. Not to mention, all of that is a violation of people’s civil rights.
I pointed it out to people when discussing the subject. What are the rewards the government want to grant me if I get the vaccine? It is unclear. Apart from “Green Passport” (we do love going abroad), there is no real incentive. Shaming tactics have failed miserably as well, since people just don’t buy the BS. Celebrities were, up until now, more often caught violating the restrictions than encouraging others to follow them. As I continue to state, if the vaccine is the solution, have anyone who got it off social distancing, masks and lockdowns. That will be a real incentive.
How will we differentiate? Good question, but with almost 2 million people being vaccinated soon, meaning all elderly and people at risk, why do you now need all the measures? The only answers I get are fear-related. Not helpful.
The forces of politics (election), herd immunity (within ~2 months) and Israeli mentality suggest that a great deal of ease is coming our way. I can’t be sure, but there will be great pushback if restriction continue with no good reasoning.
We have yet to see a statement of “What are the stages of restriction ease”. That does not mean that a plan does not exist. However, I fear that the politicians may not choose the best path out. I think you share that sentiment.
Let’s hope for the best.