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Opinion

Coronavirus, Israel and the US Jewish community

In Judaism, we are taught to “choose life.” Sometimes, doing so entails risk. But the math in this case shows that the risk of the vaccine is far less than that of the virus.

A young woman gets vaccinated at Clalit COVID-19 vaccination center in Rehovot on Jan. 4, 2021. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
A young woman gets vaccinated at Clalit COVID-19 vaccination center in Rehovot on Jan. 4, 2021. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
Farley Weiss
Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel.

Israel is the world leader in the vaccination of its citizens against COVID-19. As a result of its successful vaccination campaign—through which some 60 percent of its population has gotten both jabs so far—it has dramatically cut mortality and morbidity rates.

While Israel is opening up its economy again, other countries that are behind on the vaccine have been imposing lockdowns in many of their cities. It is therefore surprising that many in the Jewish community in America are so worried about receiving the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there have been more than 31 million cases of coronavirus in the United States, resulting in more than 560,000 deaths and around 2 million hospitalizations. As of today, approximately 37.3 percent of Americans have received the first shot of the vaccine and 23.1 percent are fully vaccinated. Of the latter, there are only 5,800 cases of “breakthrough” COVID-19 infection—with some 400 people (7 percent) hospitalized and 58 dying from the disease.

Those opposed to the vaccine—including some members of the Jewish community—are not doing a proper cost-benefit analysis. For example, in the U.S., there are roughly 75 million people fully vaccinated, in contrast to around 31 million who suffered from COVID-19.

Among the former, less than 3,000 have died as a result of the vaccine or from having caught the disease again, in contrast to 560,000 who died of the disease. In addition, most of those reinfected after vaccination suffer mild or asymptomatic cases.

In countries where vaccine distribution is slow, on the other hand, coronavirus deaths are increasing at an alarming rate. The numbers alone tell the story: The chance of dying from the virus is more than 400 times greater than dying from the vaccine.

A similar consideration is warranted when considering the long-term effects of the vaccine. So far—six months after people have begun receiving it—indications are that the long-term effects of the virus are worse than those of the vaccine.

In Judaism, we are taught to “choose life.” Sometimes, doing so entails risk. But the math in this case shows that the risk of the vaccine is far less than that of the virus.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu phoned Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla dozens of times at all hours of the day and night, and paid a much higher price for the vaccine than other countries. Many lives were saved by what Bourla referred to as Netanyahu’s having been “obsessive” about obtaining the necessary doses.

Hopefully, hesitant Jews in the Diaspora will follow the example of their Israeli counterparts and “choose life.”

Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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