Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

I want to state from the get-go that I received both Pfizer vaccine shots and am well past my week after the second shot. I was like many others here in Israel who made an effort to get vaccinated. The result has been 3 million Israelis vaccinated, a percentage of the population far beyond other countries. There are reports, anecdotal or otherwise, that fewer people over 60 are getting to hospital and that the shots can give some level of protection against the South African strain of the corona virus as well as person-to-person transmission of virus. If so, why are fewer people getting vaccinated, with the daily tallies half of what they were just a few weeks ago? Today, anyone over 16 can walk into a vaccination center and get vaccinated, but many fewer do so than when only over fifties could get the shots. Why?

Part of the answer is that those who were at greatest risk or were most excited to get vaccinated have already done so. But there is more. The officials in the Health Ministry and the four national HMO’s think that anti-vaxxers and those who doubt the need for vaccination are the culprits behind the drop in daily traffic at Jerusalem Arena and similar facilities throughout the country. They asked Facebook to take down a couple of accounts supporting non-vaccination. While those who are opposed or uninterested in the vaccine or maybe who had already had the virus and don’t believe that they need any further protection may not get vaccinated, the real problem that drives down numbers is something else. People see no reason to get vaccinated.

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Those of us who are vaccinated still wear masks, still keep two meters from others, still can’t leave the country or fly in a plane without a mask. If a cop stops me without a mask, I’ll pay the same fine as a person who was never vaccinated. A person looks at his neighbor who had some serious pain after the second vaccine shot and wonders why he should go through the same thing if there is no upside. Masks, no flights, distancing, kids at home—it’s all the same whether one is vaccinated or not. Telling people about abstractions regarding new strains of the virus or reduced transmission means nothing to the average Joe. He wants to see a reason to vaccinate: anyone who has the (still non-existent) green passport can fly on any Israeli carrier without a mask to whatever destination is available. There would be some minimal risk, but the upside would be a huge jump in the percentage of the population vaccinated successfully. If such positives were available, one wouldn’t see the floor of Arena or other vaccine sites if such were the case. People need a reason to do something. The first batch of vaccinated Israelis were those at highest risk because of age followed by those who wanted to protect themselves. Remove the young who are currently ineligible, those who had corona and those who are ideologically opposed to vaccination, and you are left with a few million people who would get vaccinated if they saw a tangible, measurable upside—not abstractions. Eating indoors at a restaurant, going to a movie theatre, etc.—there are plenty of carrots out there for the creative.

If Israel wants more people getting vaccinated, give them a unique positive that can only be had by full vaccination. Otherwise, keep those vaccine bottles in the deep freeze as nobody will be rushing to get the jab anytime soon.

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Dr. Alan Bauer and his son were wounded in a suicide bombing in central Jerusalem on March 21, 2002. Dr. Bauer lives and works in Jerusalem.