The Israeli Cabinet last week approved the entry to the country of tourists to vaccinated and recovered tourists starting on Nov. 1. The conditions for entry will make this more theoretical than actual, however,
One such condition is that children under 12 must have contracted and recovered from COVID-19 less than six months earlier. Another is that adults are required to have been fully vaccinated less than six months prior to their trip.
These rules are ridiculous. They mean, in effect, that the country won’t really be open to incoming tourists. At this point, no children under 12 are vaccinated, and most adults in the United States received two doses of the vaccine more than half a year ago—and the FDA has only approved booster shots for citizens over the age of 65 or for those with compromised immune systems.
The fact that Israel’s coronavirus infection and death rates have been plummeting without kids under 12 being vaccinated illustrates that they haven’t been the ones spreading COVID-19. Thus, there’s no reason not to allow them to enter the country upon presentation of a negative PCR test.
The FDA voted in September against booster shots for the general population. The reason for this is that the vaccines still protect against serious cases of coronavirus for much longer than six months, even without the booster. And more than 90 percent of the seriously ill coronavirus patients in Israeli hospitals weren’t vaccinated.
Another reason for the FDA decision is that the vaccines have side effects, leading to the conclusion that the risks of the booster shot outweigh its benefits. As a result, most potential tourists did not receive a third jab.
Israel’s message to tourists, then, is a double one: announcing that they will be able to enter the country, yet making it almost impossible for them to do so.
Israel should drop the restrictions that make no scientific sense.
American radiologist Dr. Nicole Saphier, director of breast imaging at Memorial Sloan Kettering Monmouth, New Jersey and a regular contributor to Fox News, told the network that very few people who contracted the virus in the past 17 months have gotten infected a second time. Furthermore, she said, of those who did get infected, very few had serious symptoms that required hospitalization.
Taking this into account, Israel’s window for tourists should be 17 months, not six. Israel should also overturn the booster-shot requirement for tourists who recovered from the virus.
Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician and epidemiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, opposes vaccines for recovered COVID-19 patients. He believes that the science shows that the vaccine for such patients not only doesn’t provide additional protection but poses unnecessary risks. This is logical since people are not getting reinfected for at least 17 months.
Yale University epidemiologist Dr. Harvey Risch points to six studies showing that there are health risks to those who receive the vaccine after having recovered from the virus and advises against the practice.
It is interesting in this context that the lowest per capita infection rate in the continental U.S. right now is in Florida, despite the state’s having no vaccine requirement, mask mandate or social-distancing regulation. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis favors the vaccine. He himself was vaccinated.
More than 89 percent of Floridians over the age of 65 and 84 percent over the age of 60 were vaccinated. New York, in contrast, has more than double Florida’s infection rate, despite vaccine mandates for state and city workers, and the barring of the unvaccinated from restaurants.
DeSantis also has led the way in making monoclonal antibodies, such as Regeneron, available for infected people. This has led to a plummeting coronavirus death rate in Florida. A U.S. study in May found that high-risk patients treated with Regeneron soon after they were infected lowered their chances of hospitalization and death by 70 percent. Israel would do well to avail its serious COVID-19 patients of Regeneron.
Israel should also allow all tourists who test negative before boarding their flights and upon landing to enter. It should be irrelevant whether someone was vaccinated or recovered; all that matters is whether he or she is bringing the virus into the country.
HBO’s “Politically Incorrect” host Bill Maher recently noted the overreaction to COVID-19 among Democrats, 70 percent of whom revealed in a poll to believe that one-quarter or more of those who get infected die from the virus. This is in spite of the fact that the coronavirus death rate is only just above 2 percent for people over the age of 65.
Israelis shouldn’t fall prey to the same misconception. Nor should the Israeli government insist on its current guidelines, which will have the opposite of the desired effect, by leading to a negligible increase in tourism.
The Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid-led government was wise not to impose another lockdown. It is rightly focused on reopening the country to tourists. Indeed, robust tourism boosts Israel’s economy and bolsters its public relations.
The move can be done safely, without the current restrictions, and without jeopardizing the health of Israeli citizens.
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.