In Israel and beyond, virus vaccines bring political power – By Josef Federman (AP News) / Feb 22 2021
JERUSALEM (AP) — Forget about oil and arms. Coronavirus vaccines are emerging as the newest currency of choice in the Middle East.
Israel’s reopening of its economy, combined with a murky prisoner swap with Syria and the arrival of a batch of vaccines in the Gaza Strip, have all underscored how those with access to the vaccines have political power in the turbulent region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been at the forefront of this trend, pinning his re-election hopes on the success of his campaign to vaccinate Israel’s adult population. At the same time, he has offered rewards to those who vaccinate and punishments to those who don’t.
Israel has jumped out to the world’s fastest vaccination campaign, administering at least one dose to more than half its 9.3 million people and the required two doses to about a third in less than two months. In contrast to the long waits seen in Europe and the U.S., vaccines are plentiful and available almost on demand to anyone who wants one. Clinics have even offered free food and cappuccinos to help lure reluctant holdouts to come in and get the jab.