The city of Tel Aviv is giving new meaning to the phrase, “Let’s take a shot.”
As part of an effort to boost the city’s extensive COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality is encouraging the city’s younger population to receive vaccinations at a mobile vaccination site next to Jenia Bar at Dizengoff Square in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Arrivals who show proof of vaccination and a DigiTel Resident Card, or register for DigiTel at the vaccination site, will receive a voucher for a free drink at the bar.
The mobile vaccination unit of Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency service, will operate on Thursday, February 18, from 6pm until midnight.
Vaccines will be available to members of all healthcare providers, without an appointment and free of charge. Vaccines are limited to first-dose recipients only, however.
The initiative, which follows the success of other mobile vaccination sites in the city in Jaffa and the Kiryat Shalom neighborhood, is held in partnership with several restaurants and nightlife associations.
“Vaccinations are the only way to return our livelihood, health and – above all – our freedom,” said Shai Berman, CEO of the Israel Restaurant and Bar Association, “Come to be vaccinated – the chaser is on the house.”
“The restaurants, cafes and bars have been closed for almost a year. As a significant part of daily life and culinary culture in the city, we greatly feel their absence. We all want to return to normal life. The more that we are vaccinated, the more we will be able to return to normal and restore the beating heart of the city to action – and it starts with the employees, business owners and customers,” added Tomer Moore, CEO of Restaurateurs Stronger Together Association.
While this is the first time a temporary vaccination facility will be set up next to a bar, it isn’t the first time the city has offered food and beverages as an incentive. Earlier this week, Tel Aviv offered free pizza, hummus, coffee and knafeh, a sweet Middle Eastern dessert made with filo pastry and cheese, to members of the public who showed up to receive a vaccine.
Eytan Schwartz, a spokesperson for the municipality, told Reuters the city hoped the food and drink would create a “family-like atmosphere” for those still unsure about getting the vaccine.
(Last week, the municipality of Bnei Brak, a largely ultra-Orthodox Jewish town, was encouraging residents to vaccinate by giving out free cholent.)
Israel’s ambitious vaccination drive
Israel currently leads the world in COVID-19 vaccinations per capita, having vaccinated over 40 percent of its 9.3 million people. (That’s over 4 million people.)
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The country’s largest healthcare provider, Clalit, has reported a 94 percent drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases with the Pfizer vaccine, Reuters reported.
But while the country’s vaccine campaign has been nothing short of ambitious, the country has also seen a drop in the numbers of people getting the shot since the vaccine became available to everyone over the age of 16. Daily injections were down nearly 39 percent on February 13 from the peak in January, according to the Israeli Health Ministry, as reported in Foreign Policy magazine.
The country continues its attempts to persuade vaccine skeptics and more insular communities to take their shot with millions of shekels to be spent on information campaigns to battle conspiracy theories and rumors and encouraging young Israelis to get the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the city of Tel Aviv launched a campaign with Ichilov Hospital (Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center) to innoculate thousands of asylum seekers, migrant workers, and foreign nationals who live in the city.
In the first stage, the vaccination center in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood of south Tel Aviv was able to vaccinate over 600 people a day manned by Ichilov staffers.
The municipality and Ichilov Hospital have also been operating a huge vaccination center in Rabin Square in recent weeks. In addition, the city is operating a COVID-19 testing site in partnership with the Home Front Command and assisting over 1,500 test recipients per day. Additional testing sites are in operation across the city.
The easing of restrictions
The Israeli government said it plans to reopen hotels, gyms, museums, libraries, synagogues and malls on Sunday to those fully vaccinated or having recovered from COVID-19. Restrictions on businesses are also set to ease.
These facilities will be available for Israelis who have the “Green Pass,” a certificate that says they are allowed to enter these leisure and recreational facilities because they are fully vaccinated.
“This is what your first step back to an almost normal life will look like,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, “If we continue at a high rate of immunization and maintain the guidelines, we will not need a fourth closure.”
“Today, especially after seeing the positive impact of the vaccinations, everyone understands that the fastest and safest way to return to pre-coronavirus life, to enjoy bars and dance in nightclubs is simple. All that is necessary is to go and be vaccinated,” said Shlomi Dayan, chairman of the Israeli Bar and Nightclub Association and a witness to the vaccinations taking place next to the Jenia bar in Dizengoff Square.
He added, “We thank the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality for the important campaign that provides us with hope that the return to normal is closer than ever. L’chaim!”