(February 11, 2021, Ramat Gan, Israel, JNS Wire) World-renowned experts in virology, immunology and epidemiology delivered a virtual briefing on the coronavirus pandemic and Israel’s ongoing vaccination campaign to an audience that included hundreds of health ministry representatives and members of the Jewish community from around the world. The event was hosted by the Center for Jewish Impact and Bar-Ilan University.
The Center for Jewish Impact initiated the briefing in an effort to strengthen the bond between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel, and provide a firsthand, inside look at Israel’s handling of the vaccination campaign. Among the speakers: Prof. Karl Skorecki, Dean of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Ronit Sarid, Senior Virologist at Bar-Ilan’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Prof. Cyrille Cohen, Head of the Immunotherapy Laboratory at the Goodman Faculty and a member of the Israel Ministry of Health Advisory Committee for Clinical Trials of the Coronavirus Vaccines, and Prof. Michael Edelstein, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology from the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University.
Robert Singer, Chairman of the Center for Jewish Impact: “Hundreds of participants from dozens of countries are gathered together for this distinguished event, which aims to provide access to the latest information on the State of Israel’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in general and the vaccination campaign in particular. During these days of uncertainty, we understand that our connection with Diaspora Jewry is more important than ever. We are therefore happy to have initiated this important briefing of leading experts in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University.”
Zohar Yinon, CEO, Bar-Ilan University: “I would like to show my deep appreciation to the Center for Jewish Impact. We are working closely with each other in order to impact Jewish communities around the world. I would like to thank the experts who participated in this briefing, as well. We are working constantly on maintaining these important relations with the Jewish community, especially in such critical times.”
Prof. Karl Skorecki, Dean, Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University: “I value this cooperation between Bar-Ilan University and the Center for Jewish Impact, and I wish a complete recovery to all those who are sick. These days all eyes are on Israel. We are in a position that allows us to share the knowledge of the finest experts who can provide an extensive overview of the progression of the virus and efforts to deal with it.”
Prof. Ronit Sarid, Senior Virologist: “Currently we are facing numerous new SARS-CoV-2 variants, each containing a set of several mutations. There are thousands of combinations, and the questions we keep asking are whether the mutant is more adapted and can thus be transmitted more efficiently in the population? Whether it causes a more aggressive disease? And whether it sensitive or resistant to a given vaccine? Of note, similar mutations have appeared in three independent major variants that are currently spreading, suggesting the occurrence of evolution and adaptions that may have an evolutionary edge. On the optimistic side, mutations do not necessarily create more violent viruses but may lead to the formation of viruses that cause milder disease.”
Prof. Cyrille Cohen, Head of the Immunotherapy Laboratory at Bar-Ilan University and a member of the Ministry of Health Advisory Committee for Clinical Trials on Corona Vaccines, described the pathology of COVID-19, ongoing treatment, steps in the development of the vaccine and how vaccines work, and how it was possible to develop a vaccine in such a short time. He talked about the protection the vaccines provide against new variants, as well as the concept of herd immunity. He also noted questions that remain to be answered regarding optimal vaccine schedule, the potential protection of the vaccine against transmission and contamination, and a possible third injection. “We know that the coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective. The vaccination campaign in Israel is beginning to show effectiveness and we are on the right track.”
Prof. Michael Edelstein, Public Health and Epidemiology: Prof. Edelstein pointed out that Israel is one of the countries vaccinating its population the fastest, but the pace is slowing as some challenges emerge. Some populations are getting vaccinated faster than others and it is urgent to understand why. “Israel has achieved tremendous success in vaccinating its population against COVID-19 so far. Nevertheless, complacency and an increasingly active anti-vaccination action are slowing down this effort. We must ensure that the vaccination effort reaches everyone as soon as possible in order to control the pandemic and return to normal life,” he said.