“The Covid-19 is behind us”, estimated Tuesday, June 1 on franceinfo Professor Cyrille Cohen, immunologist at Bar-Ilan University in the Tel Aviv district in Israel and member of the advisory board on clinical trials of vaccines against Covid-19. “The vaccine worked miracles, it’s a magic wand”, he advances to explain the success of the crisis management in his country, where many restrictions are lifted on Tuesday.
franceinfo: Is this a return to life before?
Cyrille Cohen: In practice, we are almost in a historic day. For more than three months, we open. We have lifted a lot of restrictions. There, we realize that in a sense, the Covid-19 is behind us. In all of Israel, we have 350 positive cases, we have between 10 and 20 cases per day. Our hospitals are no longer overcrowded, we have less than 50 patients in serious condition. We haven’t worn a mask for a month and a half outside. Today, we no longer have restrictions in terms of footage, gatherings, social distancing, for vaccinated and non-vaccinated. Everything is canceled. The only thing that we maintain is the wearing of the mask indoors, in closed places. During the month of June, if these figures are confirmed, we will get rid of that too.
How do you explain this situation in a country of 10 million inhabitants?
One word would sum up this whole situation: the vaccine. The vaccine worked miracles, it’s a magic wand. We vaccinated quickly and well in Israel. We were grappling with the British variant in a race against time which caused a lot of damage, even when we started to vaccinate because the population was not sufficiently protected. Suddenly, when we opened the vaccination to everyone on February 4, we began to see an impressive decline in the epidemic. What made us even stronger was the fact that very quickly we were able to protect people at risk and the elderly. For the past three months we have been lifting restrictions every two weeks and we have not seen an increase. Every time we opened, we continued to see a decline in the epidemic. We cannot say that the epidemic is over, but we think we are at the threshold of collective immunity: 60% of Israelis are vaccinated, and we have about 10% of convalescents, so we are around. 70% of the population protected. Children are less likely to be infected. Today we should decide whether to open vaccination to 12-15 year olds. The bulk of the population being vaccinated, we are close to collective immunity.
The virus does not know borders, how to help the inhabitants of the West Bank, Gaza to be vaccinated?
We gave them hundreds of thousands of doses. It is very important to have a global effort. It is a global fight. What worries us are the variants, which are spreading. We have good news because the vaccine – in Israel we vaccinate primarily with Pfizer, the RNA vaccine – would be protective of most of these variants, perhaps not at the same rate as the original variant, but in a very similar way. We control those entering the airport: we do not import a variant. Each positive case is sequenced to determine whether it is a variant or not.