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Israeli vaccine chief: phase out Vax passes in Omicron era

Vaccine passports should be phased out in the Omicron era, a top Israeli immunologist has said. Vaccine chief, Professor Cyrille Cohen, made the comments on Tuesday in a ‘forthright’ interview with UnHerd. Prof Cohen is the head of Immunology at the Bar Ilan University, and is a member of the advisory committee for vaccines for the Israeli Government.

The Israeli immunologist said that the concept of a vaccine pass, known in some international countries as a Green Pass, was “no longer relevant in the Omicron era and should be phased out.” In the widely circulated comments, the vaccine chief sensationally admitted that “we have made mistakes” in reference to Israel’s approach to Covid, which included closing schools.

Israeli vaccine chief: “We have made mistakes” – YouTube

His comments come as England moved to scrap  vaccine passports. Boris Johnson’s announcement that England’s vaccine passport system had come to an end was met with cheers in the House of Commons.  Johnson added that the government had reviewed the date, and that people are no longer being asked to work from home.

Johnson said that once Plan B regulations lapsed next week, the government would no longer mandate face masks “anywhere” – including classrooms.

Professor Cohen and his colleagues in Israel said that they were surprised and disappointed that the vaccines did not prevent transmission, as they had originally hoped. Prof Cohen also said that the biggest mistake of the pandemic in Israel was shutting schools and education.

He added that widespread infection is now an inevitable part of future immunity – otherwise referred to as herd immunity. In the interview, the professor also said that Omicron has accelerated the pandemic into the endemic phase, meaning that Covid could now be “like the common flu.”

In the interview with Unherd TV, which has been viewed over 360,000 times in a short time, Prof Cohen said that there was a “very narrow gap” between the unvaccinated and the vaccinated, and that both can get infected with COVID “more or less at the same pace.”

“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,” Prof Cohen said.

On the behavioural science behind vaccine passes, known as the Green Pass in Israel, he said: “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.”

Speaking on the risks and rewards of herd immunity, Prof Cohen told Unherd TV:

“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.”

Addressing school closures across Israel resulting from the Covid crisis, he said such a decision was “a mistake” and that education should never have been touched.

“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 advancement of COVID from pandemic to endemic, he said he believed COVID will become like a flu.

“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.”

Finally, addressing contentious vaccine mandates which have caused worldwide furore and widespread protests, the vaccine chief said that vaccination must be a personal choice.

“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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