Soon after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu received the country’s first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination, Telfed hosted a virtual community panel discussion to answer questions from the ex-SA community in Israel.
Three South African-born doctors, Dr Carron Sher (a paediatrician with Clalit Health Fund), Dr Rhona Bagraim (a family doctor with Maccabi Health Fund) and Dr Gail Loon-Lustig (former head of Home Care for Maccabi in central Israel) addressed the community on the pertinent topic: “What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccination in Israel”. The doctors offered explanations on how the vaccinations work, the importance of vaccinating on an individual, national and international level and why we should avoid fake news. They shared practical advice on how to schedule an appointment in Israel. Dr Gail Loon-Lustig, a graduate of UCT, added that it was ‘a huge privilege to be sitting with my two colleagues from UCT. I have great pride in that. And this has not happened in 40 years.’ There was an overwhelming response to the webinar, and many concerns were eased thanks to the knowledge and professionalism of our guest speakers.
As Israel continued to make international headlines due to the efficiency of the vaccination rollout, questions were raised over mutations and whether COVID-19 can be entirely eliminated. Once again, Telfed had the unique opportunity to host a community webinar with a South African-born expert in the field of epidemiology. On Sunday 17 January, Professor Manfred Green (a Director at Haifa University’s School of Public Health) spoke about the ability to eradicate COVID-19 now that we have a vaccine. Another UCT graduate, Professor Green is a founding director of the Israel Centre for Disease Control and currently sits on government advisory committees including the Committee on the Control of Epidemics and the Committee on Measles, Rubella and Polio Eradication (which he heads). Drawing on the experiences learned from the eradication of smallpox, and international programmes to eliminate polio and measles, Professor Green spoke about the long-term challenges and opportunities that the international community is faced with.
Arnie and Roni Witkin were on holiday in Cape Town when they received a message from their health care provider that they were eligible to schedule appointments for their first COVID-19 vaccinations. Following their mandatory Corona tests, they booked their appointments at the Maccabi vaccination facility in Herzliya in central Israel. ‘Again, a model of efficiency and making you feel welcome,’ wrote Arnie. ‘There were around 15 stations and a supervisor directing people to their stations. We were taken as soon as we arrived, the explanation of what to expect was to the point and the jab painless. There was a sense of urgency — “we really need to get this done.”’ It’s not just veteran Olim who are receiving their vaccinations. Following the mandatory quarantine period and initial bureaucratic steps, our newest Olim have joined other Israelis in rolling up their sleeves and getting vaccinated.
Published in the print edition of the February 2021 issue. Download the February 2021 issue PDF here.
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