NEW YORK - Long lines and confusion plague COVID-19 vaccination sites all across the New York area. Right now, the U.S. trails four countries when it comes to how many doses are administered per 100 people. The country leading the pack by a long shot is Israel.
"We are giving a lot of responsibility to the HMOs which are really running the community effort. That is one reason," Dr. Asher Salmon of the Israeli Ministry of Health said during a virtual briefing. "The second reason, I believe, is a combination of good, precise planning but still keeping space for flexibility."
Salmon shared Israel's vaccine distribution tactics at Thursday's briefing. The country has universal health insurance and four different insurance options to choose from, which are called HMOs. The country also has a single national vaccine storage and logistics site, which is located in the center of the country near main roads.
Vaccine doses ship from this center to HMO-run healthcare facilities across Israel every day. Also, the country operates a smooth electronic system that tracks every resident's appointment and data.
"Everybody had an appointment, we knew exactly the day and the date and the hour and the time, that's it — it's very easy here," said Miriam Rosenberg, my cousin, who lives in Israel.
She and her husband, Asher, are both in their 60s and already about to get their second shot. Her HMO-run health clinic reached out to her first through a text message to make an appointment.
Yoni Leviatan, a native Floridian turned Israeli blogger and musician, is in his early 40s and has asthma.
"At first they didn't send me a message, I just called them up and said. 'Look, I was trying to see if I can get an appointment' and they went through a list of questions and said, 'Yeah, you are good — you are eligible," Leviatan said. "There's no overcrowding, you go in and put your card into a machine. I got a number and as soon as the number printed they called me. I was in and out in three minutes."
Israel is a very small country, but it also saw the signs early. The country started training hospital staff in January 2020, right after it heard about the very first case of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China.
To compare Israel to our area: New York City hopes to vaccinate 1 million of its more than 8 million residents by the end of this month. Israel's goal is to inoculate all 9 million of its citizens over the age of 16 by the end of March.
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