Monday, January 18

The Israeli laboratory

Since the start of this @% pandemic, I have resisted playing the game of comparisons. Sweden, a model country? Not that much, after all. British Columbia, the Canadian champion in the spring, is now deploying mobile morgues around its overcrowded hospitals.

Isabelle Hachey
Isabelle Hachey

The second wave hits everywhere with more or less force. And everywhere, the same criticisms are heard. Covidiots! Freedom-killing measures! We should have done this or that …


“At the rate things are going, all Israelis over 16 will be vaccinated by the end of March. Already, 20% of the 9.3 million Israelis have received the vaccine, ”writes our columnist.

In short, when we compare ourselves, we perhaps console ourselves, but never for very long. The exercise seems perilous and futile to me. Faced with this insidious virus, the good students of today risk too often being the dunces of tomorrow.

However, let me make an exception to tell you about Israel. At the rate things are going, all Israelis over 16 will be vaccinated by the end of March. Already, 20% of the 9.3 million Israelis have received the vaccine. In Canada, it is only 1%.

It’s still amazing.

Several factors explain the formidable effectiveness of the Israeli vaccination campaign. The Hebrew state is small in size and population. Well organised. Rich, too. Willing to pay a high price for getting your hands on millions of doses. And then, he behaves with the Palestinians as he often used to behave.

As if they didn’t exist.

Again on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the construction of 800 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians? Where ?

Even willful blindness to the vaccine. Where are Palestinians? Let them manage …

But I digress.

Another factor behind Israel’s success: a pact with Pfizer. The pharmaceutical giant has promised to deliver millions of doses as a priority to Israel. In exchange, the government agrees to provide it with the medical data – anonymized – of its citizens.

In other words, Israel will serve as a living laboratory to test the efficacy of the vaccine on a large scale.

The country can count on a fully computerized health system. Masses of data lie dormant in government servers: who received the vaccine, when will they receive the second dose, what is their age, sex, state of health, etc. A gold mine for Pfizer.

The results of her research – which she promises to share with the World Health Organization (WHO) – will help develop vaccination strategies in the rest of the world. And, perhaps, to end the pandemic more quickly.

* * *

Does this story remind you of another?

In August, the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, drew the wrath of the opposition when he suggested attracting Big Pharma with the “gold mine” of data from the Régie de l health insurance of Quebec.

“A delirium of a disconnected businessman,” was indignant Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, of Quebec solidaire. “Over my dead body , added his colleague Vincent Marissal. “You might as well give the keys to the blood bank to the vampires.” ”

The good news is, you don’t have to do this. We don’t need to give the keys to vampires.

Scoop: a computer platform developed at the University of Sherbrooke – and approved by the Ministry of Health – will soon be deployed throughout Quebec. It will provide access to a wealth of essential medical information, in an ethical and secure manner.

Rather than transmitting patient data, the platform itself collects this data from participating hospitals, clinics and other sources. It will provide the results to researchers in the public and private sectors who request them.

“The risks for health data are much lower if we give the final answer to the private company than if we transfer the data themselves,” explains Dr.r Jean-François Ethier, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Research in Health Informatics at the University of Sherbrooke.

The issues of consent and transparency are also crucial, he emphasizes. “If we can show people that by sharing their data, they can improve the lives of their fellow citizens, I think that many more will participate in research. ”

To be followed with interest, then.

* * *

In the meantime, back to Israel and the Palestinians.

It is indignant to see the Jewish state transporting shipments of doses to the Jewish settlements in the West Bank while the Palestinians who live around must be patient. We can find that immoral.

But if we are honest, we must admit that we are doing the same thing, on a global scale.

Rich countries rush to get vaccines and leave nothing but crumbs for poor countries. They have already bought almost all of the supply. And now some of them are upping the ante by paying higher premiums to get ahead of deliveries.

No country has the right to “cut the queue” to vaccinate its entire population before the others, impatiently the boss of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, last Saturday. You might as well preach in the desert.

It must be said that the pressure is strong. Even the otherwise polite Canada seems ready to skip the line. “Everything is on the table and we are not ruling out any option,” Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand admitted on January 8. We need to make sure that we communicate to the manufacturers of the vaccines that we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to get our hands on the vaccines as quickly as possible. ”

* * *

In absolute terms, the Israeli vaccination campaign is perfect. But there is a flaw. The Palestinians.

Beyond the humanitarian issue, the Jewish State has every interest in vaccinating those whose territories it occupies, since tens of thousands of them work in Israel.

The same logic applies to the rest of the planet. Fair vaccination would not only save lives, but would contribute to the global economic recovery, in addition to limiting the risks of mutation of the virus, stressed Mr Tedros. “Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-destructive. ”

The problem is, the world is so fed up with this pandemic that the idea of ​​potential self-destruction is arguably more bearable than giving up any place in the queue.

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