A world knocked off its axis, vaccines arrive to set it straight
By David E. Kaplan
It should have been unremarkable but it felt quite monumental! Within a few days after watching on TV a plane landing at BG International Airport with the Corona vaccine, I had my Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Monday 21 December, only a day after the Prime Minister had the nation’s first shot followed immediately by the Minister of Health. One friend was having it the next day, my wife on Thursday, my brother on Friday and others I know the next week.
The process was happening – personally and nationally!
And as for the actual injection, it took less time than the annual flu shot – five minutes from the time I entered the building in Herzliya until the time I came out. Hilary my wife who was waiting for me outside suspiciously thought:
“My God, that was too quick! What did he forget that he has go home and fetch?”
However, this was not a moment of oy vey but OMG!
As for thinking “too quick”, Hilary had the same brief’ experience a few days later at a clinic in Petah-Tikva. Even though we were going into a third lockdown, she came out the clinic and exclaimed: “I feel liberated”.
Such is the irony in these strange uncertain times!
The PM said he hoped to reach 150,000 vaccinated a day by next weekend, which will allow health authorities to inoculate some 2.25 million Israeli citizens within the next 30 days.
Only months before, the conventional wisdom was that ‘this day’ was sometime “next year” or maybe even years away. Life “as we knew it” was on hold – dependent on how fast a vaccine would be ready and listening to the experts – one thing we had in abundance – there was little reason to put the champagne on ice. The history of vaccine development was hardly encouraging. I recall reading Barney Graham, Deputy Director of the Vaccine Research Center at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases saying:
“I’ve been working on vaccines for a long time and I’ve never seen one take less than about 20 years.”
Disquieting examples were daily cited in the media, notably:
– “it took 26 years to develop a vaccine for the human papilloma virus”
– “25 years to secure one for rotavirus”
– “researchers have been trying for more than 50 years to find a vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus, one of the leading causes of infectious disease mortality in infants.”
Even when in mid-May, the US government optimistically announced that with its “Operation Warp Speed’ they will have a vaccine ready for general use by the end of 2020, most of the cognoscenti felt that target was too optimistic, generally citing spring of 2021 as a best-case scenario.
That ‘scenario’ arrived during Hanukkah and before Christmas and New Year 2020 and nothing brought home to me the enormity of the event and the concomitant excitement than while I was writing this article, I was receiving WhatsApp’s from friends and relatives with their photos of just having received the vaccine. You can’t see the smiles because all are wearing masks but their reactions are evident in their bodily gestures from a thumbs up to a raised arm or flashing the V for victory sign. What’s more, these images of joy and jubilation – or relief – were arriving from across the country like the photo of my brother and sister-in-law outside a clinic in Sakhnin, an Arab village in the lower Galilee in northern Israel.
Jews and Arabs were together in combatting a common enemy – Corona!
How telling in the new age of rapprochement in the Middle East that on December 26, four days before New Year, the No. 1 and No. 2 countries in the world for administering COVID-19 vaccinations doses per 100 people are the two counties that recently signed a “normalization deal” – the Muslim state of Bahrain and the Jewish state of Israel. Both are small countries but with huge aspirations. Once foes, they were more than ready to stand in the vanguard of rolling up sleeves, not to fight but for a shot in the arm.
Israel’s Prime Minister said it right when he paraphrased astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous words after landing on the moon with “One small injection for a man and one giant leap for the health of us all.”
That’s the way I felt – a shot in the arm was a shot in the body of all mankind.
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