Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Sunday that 280,000 Israelis had so far been inoculated against COVID-19.

“We’re ending the first week of vaccinations on the unbelievable figure of 280,000 vaccinated, 71,000 of them over the weekend. We’re continuing to vaccinate for your sake; we’re continuing to protect Israel,” said the health minister in a statement.

Israel’s coronavirus vaccination campaign is slated to be expanded this week to include those under 60 who suffer from chronic health conditions, putting them at higher risk of complications from the virus, the Health Ministry said on Saturday. Ministry officials also said that by the end of December, which falls on Thursday, vaccinations would be made available to younger age groups pending the arrival of more shipments of vaccine.

Also on Sunday, health-care providers were slated to begin administering vaccinations at retirement homes and other living facilities for the elderly run by welfare agencies.

Meanwhile, Edelstein has instructed Health Minister Director General Hezi Levy to look into the possibility of vaccinating teachers beginning the first week in January. Both Education Minister Yoav Gallant and teachers’ union leader Yaffa Ben-David have requested that teachers receive vaccines as soon as possible.

Authorities hope that when teachers are vaccinated, it will be possible to send children back to school, which will make it easier for parents to go back to work.

The ministry plans to have 150 vaccination stations up and running by Sunday with an additional 80 open by Tuesday.

The nation’s largest health-care provider, Clalit, continued to vaccinate eligible Israelis over the weekend and plans to begin administering vaccinations around the clock this week at its main vaccination centers in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Haifa. Other HMOs are also expected to extend their vaccination hours.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Thursday that Israel was on track to become “the world champion of vaccines.”

“I want to tell you that the combination of the great vaccines operation on the one hand, and a short, quick lockdown on the other, will enable us to emerge from the coronavirus, and ours will apparently be the first country to emerge from the coronavirus within a few weeks,” he said. “This is a great blessing.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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