Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attended a ceremony in Jerusalem on Sunday honoring the country’s health-system personnel and partner agencies for their contribution to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Israel’s victory was achieved thanks to two basic elements: The millions of vaccines that we brought to the country and their rapid distribution to the citizens of Israel,” said Netanyahu. “This morning we also began vaccinating young people aged 12-16. This is huge news; it promises us herd immunity,” he added.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla addressed the ceremony, which was held in the Jerusalem Theater, by videoconference.

“It was you who first alerted me about the massive danger of the coronavirus at the beginning of last year. Following your warnings, we took hard measures very early in Austria last year, which helped us to get through the first wave quite effectively,” Kurz said, addressing Netanyahu.

“As I told you many times, I have been very impressed with the efficiency of your vaccination campaign in Israel. You are so well advanced that you have been able to lift almost all COVID-related restrictions by now,” said Kurz. Austria wished to enhance cooperation on research and development with Israel to combat future waves of the pandemic, said the chancellor.

Pfizer CEO Bourla said that while the pharmaceutical giant had collaborated with many governments around the world to combat the pandemic, “nowhere has this collaboration been more effective than in Israel.”

“Israel has done the most amazing job in mobilizing their health-care system and delivering the most successful vaccination campaign in the world. I was always impressed by the high standards of Israel’s healthcare system and the high quality of Israel’s medical staff, doctors, nurses and other professionals,” he said.

Bourla noted that it was Netanyahu who had convinced him that Israel would be “the ideal place” to demonstrate the vaccine’s effectiveness to the world. “But what Israel was able to eventually achieve exceeded all my expectations,” he added.

Recent data suggests that Israel’s vaccination program in its first 120 days “prevented approximately 159,000 infections, 25,000 hospitalizations and 5,500 deaths,” said Bourla.

“I want to congratulate the prime minister, the minister of health, the scientists we partnered with in the country, the health-care providers who have been administering the vaccine and the entire nation of Israel for executing such an effective vaccination program,” said Bourla. “Your efforts are helping show the world that science can win the battle against COVID-19.”


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