At the peak of Israel’s Covid vaccination drive, the halls of a huge basketball arena in Jerusalem were filled with people, each anxiously waiting up to two hours until their number was called. More than 3,000 people a day were being vaccinated here in January.
On Monday, no more than 15 people lingered around long rows of empty chairs. Some barely had time to sit down before they were called to receive a jab. “They wait about 10 seconds,” said Shani Luvaton, the head nurse at the vaccination centre. She only uses half her booths for just a few hundred people a day.
Among the adult population, only vaccine-hesitant stragglers, roughly 1 million people, are yet to be inoculated. “Everyone who wanted to get vaccinated has already come,” said Luvaton.
Behind her workstation, boxes of syringes and disposable gloves have been piled up in a kiosk that used to sell snacks to people attending games. Special fridges containing the Pfizer/BioNTech vials sit under signs that offer deals for mustard-covered hotdogs and Coca-Cola.
Fast food may be sold here again very soon. On some days during the past two weeks, the vaccination centre had to close early because basketball games with limited crowd sizes have restarted. The country is slowly getting back to life, said Luvaton.
Israel, which has run the world’s fastest Covid vaccination campaign, may be reaching a point other countries take months or years to get to: an endgame scenario for the pandemic.
The country of 9 million people has administered both shots to more than half its population and infection rates have consistently dropped. That has continued even though daily life has returned almost completely to a pre-pandemic situation.