Israel has vaccinated over a million people in a matter of weeks, moving faster than any other country in the world. About 12% of its population have now received a dose, compared to under 1% in the United States. 70% of the elderly should be vaccinated by the end of this week.
It would be easy to attribute Israel’s speed to its small size and population density. But New Jersey, where I live, has vaccinated only 72,000 people, a rate no better than the national average. So how do you explain Israel’s success?
Israel’s health system is highly centralized and is contacting people who are eligible to get them in for their vaccine. We are expecting those who are eligible to find a vaccination site themselves, which means navigating a fragmented system that sometimes announces available vaccines on Facebook or websites that repeatedly crash.
We have people’s age and residence information available through the Social Security Administration and the IRS. Why are we not using that data to encourage the elderly to get their doses? And why are we not building a central portal for Americans to find out when and where they can be vaccinated?
Israel’s eligibility criteria are broader than in the US, with anyone over age 60 eligible. In the US, we have tight eligibility criteria and few people being vaccinated. This benefits no one as doses sit unused.
Israel also avoids wasting doses at the end of the day by giving doses at risk of spoilage to anyone who wants them.
With a more centralized system, broader eligibility notifications to those eligible, and policies to avoid waste, we could protect our fellow Americans at a much faster rate. Now that we have a solution, it’s a crime to let it sit unused.