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Israeli Vaccine Advisor: "We Have Made Mistakes"

Professor Cyrille Cohen is head of Immunology at Bar Ilan University and a member of the advisory committee for vaccines for the Israeli Government. In a wide-ranging and forthright interview, the Professor tells Freddie Sayers:

  • The Green Pass / vaccine passport concept is no longer relevant in the Omicron era and should be phased out (he expects it to be in short order in Israel)

  • He and his colleagues were surprised and disappointed that the vaccines did not prevent transmission, as they had originally hoped

  • The biggest mistake of the pandemic in Israel was closing schools and education

  • Widespread infection is now an inevitable part of future immunity — otherwise known as herd immunity

  • Omicron has accelerated the pandemic into the endemic phase, in which Covid will be “like flu”


KEY QUOTES

"Especially with Omicron, where we don’t see virtually any difference, there is a very narrow gap between people vaccinated and non-vaccinated, both can get infected with a virus, more or less at the same pace".

On the behavioural science behind the Green Pass:

"You have also to understand that the Green Pass is not necessarily — and that’s not a secret — it’s not necessarily to prevent transmission. It’s also to encourage people to get vaccinated. And I don’t want to touch upon the political aspects of the green pass. But this is a reality."

On the risks and rewards of herd immunity:

"Herd immunity is a consequence for me. It’s not an objective, it’s not a goal. There is a thin nuance here, if I may say, that people have to grasp. I’m not saying to people go and get infected, I don’t think that this is a model that we need to adopt."

On Israeli school closures:

"There is one mistake, I think that we made, and that I’m extremely sorry for that. We have made a few mistakes, but it was education. For me education was the thing we shouldn’t have touched. Never, never."

On the acceleration from pandemic to endemic:

"I think it’s going to be like flu, I think there is going to be bad waves and better waves, with a better immunity at the level of the population, with better vaccines with better treatment. In that sense, and I’m extremely cautious, there is a possibility that Omicron will accelerate that transition."

On vaccine mandates: "I think that vaccination is a personal choice. And I always said, I believe it is so. But that choice has some consequences. And here, there is a problem in society. If you are over 50, 60, and you’re saying I don’t want to get vaccinated, will you be, and I’m gonna ask a provocative question, will you be willing to renounce on the possibility of getting taken care of in hospitals?"


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