The Australian government has fallen behind on its Covid-19 vaccination rollout timeline only a little more than two weeks into the nationwide program. According to Australia’s Chief Medical Officer the overall timeline objectives remain and is designed to enable every Australian adult who is seeking the jab, get vaccinated by the end of October.
Comparatively, Israel has right from the beginning of 2021 been leading the global rollout race, having vaccinated over half of its population (including its non citizens ranging from foreign workers to diplomats) with close to five million people having received two doses as required by Pfizer’s guidelines.
Israel’s population of 9.053 million has reported 829K cases and 6,257 deaths due to Covid-19. Comparatively, Australia’s population of 25.36 million has reported 29K cases and 909 deaths due to Covid.
Suffice to say, the effects of Covid has hit Israel harder than Australia and resulted in three nationwide hard lockdowns in Israel, which took a significant toll on the economy and the country’s social fabrics. Despite that, the ‘startup nation’ has recovered much more rapidly than Australia, largely due to an immensely effective nationwide vaccination rollout campaign, championed as being the most vaccinated population in the world. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ and Israel has proven again to be her innovative child.
Reflecting back to a year ago when the pandemic hit, Israel manufactured millions of Covid-19 testing swabs in a short period of time, developed AI software that enabled easy communication with patients, and a nationwide software to track and quickly update the probability of community transmission and infections in specific demographics, communities and locations.
The outbreak of the pandemic in Israel posed several challenges. Firstly, the shortage of medical products needed for Covid-19 test kits (including swabs). These swabs were not produced in Israel and the immense global demand for them in such a short period made them an incredibly scarce and valued commodity.
Secondly, the virus’ massive interference to normal supply chain of materials that were only manufactured abroad, but used in Israeli factories, posed a significant threat to the production of essential goods (pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, baby formula, etc.). The cessation of imports created a nationwide shortage of necessary items which posed a further unwanted challenge for Israel to overcome.
In this time of crisis, the Israeli Innovation Authority, which serves as the country’s leading government entity that supports research & development through technology and innovation, was quick to create and offer new programs and schemes for entrepreneurs. Supported by, financial vehicles to companies and start-ups, inviting them to join the national effort aimed at providing necessary solutions to deal with, and fight, the spread of the pandemic, and manage its medical, social and economic implications.
The Director of Strategy in the Innovation Authority’s Advanced Manufacturing Division, Ronit Eshel, explained their approach in transforming these challenges into opportunities:
“The State of Israel needed local production of medical products and basic consumer products. Companies that succeed in manufacturing the required products in a short period of time will fill their production capacity and safely navigate the crisis. We, therefore, published calls for proposals to companies to turn the crisis into opportunity and initiated contact with large numbers of industrialists. We were happy to find a positive and quick response to our call to advance technological developments that meet today’s pressing needs. Within just one month, 75 factories submitted requests to develop a product or a process that will help cope with the crisis.”
Australia and Israel both have universal health care systems and advanced digital health records for each of their citizens. The combination of these factors, as well as their comparatively small population sizes, makes both nations fertile grounds for collecting responsive data on the vaccine’s performance, including tracking the effects of herd immunity and effectiveness on new variants. Pfizer realised this advantage and entered into an agreement with Israel for access to anonymized data on vaccine recipients. Despite the breadth of similarities, Israel has been able to implement an effective vaccine roll out at a rate that Australia is currently unable to mimic.