This guy isn’t messing around. Which I can understand, as cases in Israel have increased nearly 100-fold in the past six weeks. On June 13 they were averaging 14 per day. Yesterday?
Thanks to the magic of vaccines, though, deaths haven’t increased at the same rate. On June 13 Israel stood at two deaths per day on average. Yesterday the average was … precisely the same. A lot of lives are being saved.
But maybe not for long? Naftali Bennett, the new prime minister, addressed the nation last night with an urgent message to the unvaccinated. You’re putting everyone at risk, he told them. He respects differing views but discussion time is over.
“Every citizen over age 12 who doesn’t have a medical reason not to must go get vaccinated,” he said.
“One million Israelis are refusing to get vaccinated,” Bennett continued. “They are endangering the entire population, they are endangering the other 8 million citizens in the country.”
He warned that the vaccine holdouts could cause the government to impose a fourth national lockdown since the pandemic began.
I don’t see how a new lockdown can be justified morally at this point. If you force a business to close now, you’re necessarily prioritizing the right of the unvaccinated not to get the shot over the right of that business owner to his livelihood. Lockdowns were defensible when the entire population was vulnerable and at risk of spreading the virus to the elderly, when vaccines were unavailable. Now, with vaccines plentiful, one’s vulnerability is a matter of choice. How do you force a restaurateur or bartender to lose his income — again — because of some stranger’s reckless, ignorant choice?
But maybe Bennett knows something I don’t about the risk of Delta to the vaccinated elderly population. This new data showing the effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine against Delta was circulating yesterday among Israeli scientists:
People who got vaccinated in January of this year, which includes many senior citizens, are quite vulnerable to infection and symptomatic illness from Delta. They’re still mostly protected from hospitalization, but COVID can be debilitating even when it’s not severe enough to send someone to the ER. A lot of Israeli grandmas and grandpas could be in for a rough summer if Delta continues to spread.
There’s only one way to meaningfully slow the spread. And it ain’t masks.
When Bennett says in the clip below that the time for discussion with the unvaccinated is over, he means that the effort to incentivize them through pure persuasion is at an end. The big news from this speech is that, although the unvaxxed will still be allowed to access public spaces, they’ll need a recent negative COVID test in order to do so — and they’ll need to bear the cost of that test themselves. “There is no reason that taxpayers and those who fulfill their civic duty to get vaccinated will fund tests for those who refuse to get vaccinated,” says Bennett, reminiscent of the point I made yesterday about whether the unvaxxed should have to pay higher health insurance premiums because they present a higher risk to insurers. At some point, when you insist on assuming a risk needlessly, the costs of that risk need to be internalized. That’s what Bennett’s doing.
And just to twist their arm a little more, he’s requiring more stringent quarantine rules for the unvaccinated upon returning from abroad than for the vaccinated. If you’re a greater risk to spread the virus to others, why shouldn’t you have to isolate until it’s clear that you’re not infected? Again, the risk must be internalized.
If vaccination rates in Israel don’t start rising after this, presumably they’ll resort to more heavy-handed mandates. Those do work on some people, after all:
Vaccine-hesitant Americans hate vaccine mandates.
But many would reluctantly abide by them and get the shot if their state required it to go watch live sports, concerts, eat at restaurants, or board a flight. pic.twitter.com/CGyESYU4FD
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) July 23, 2021
Here’s Bennett, who kept it short and simple in his remarks. Definitely worth your time if you can spare six minutes.