When Will Israel’s Vaccination Campaign Boost the Nation’s Economy? – Barron’s

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An Israeli health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at Clalit Health Services, in a gymnasium in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon.

Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

While the U.S. and Western European countries still struggle to get their Covid-19 vaccination campaigns off the ground, Israel has made remarkable progress, with 42.6% of Israelis over 16 years old having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Now comes a key test: Will the economy come back?

Israel’s rapid vaccine rollout has created a natural experiment to test how quickly a national economy can rebound after widespread Covid-19 vaccination. Israel’s vaccination campaign is at the stage the U.S. hopes to be by late spring. If Israel can show that vaccinating most of a country’s population can bring back the economic activity lost to the virus, it could provide hope for a global recovery in the near term. Israel is administering both the Pfizer (ticker: PFE) and the Moderna (MRNA) vaccines.

So far, there’s not enough data to show what impact the Israeli vaccination campaign has had on the country’s economy. The country is only now emerging from a lengthy lockdown that has deepened unemployment.

While Israel has faced growing criticism for not including Palestinian citizens of the occupied West Bank and Gaza in its vaccination campaign, the progress of vaccination among Israelis has been dramatic. According to data compiled by the website Our World in Data, 89.9% of Israelis over 60 had received at least one vaccine dose as of Feb. 6, and 80.1% had received two doses.

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Among Israelis aged 16 to 59, 36.7% had received at least one dose and 20% had received two doses. As of Feb. 10, 26.9% of the population had received two doses.

Meanwhile, the number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 has been dropping from a recent peak in mid-January. The country hit a seven-day rolling average of 8,624 new cases on Jan. 17. That number was down 32.3% to 5,836 as of Feb. 10.

There doesn’t appear yet to be evidence of an economic boost attributable to the vaccine campaign. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics said in its latest release that 16.7% of Israelis were unemployed in the first half of January using the broadest measure of unemployment, up from 13.7% in the second half of December.

Israel declared its third nationwide lockdown on Dec. 27, with restrictions only easing late last week.

The bureau says that 10.1% of Israelis are out of work for reasons related to the pandemic.

A more recent report from Google, based on anonymized user data, shows that as of Feb. 5, visits to retail and recreation sites in Israel, including restaurants, cafes, and malls, were down 51% compared to baseline. Google’s report does not say how it arrived at the baseline number.

Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at josh.nathan-kazis@barrons.com

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