Israel says half its population has received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

A man receives a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Jerusalem

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to 50% of its population, while 35% have received the full two-dose course, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Friday.

Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have been included in the vaccine campaign that began on Dec. 19, as part of the 9.3 million population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not part of the Israeli campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aims to vaccinate all Israelis over the age of 16 by the end of March - when he is up for re-election. He says that would allow for a post-pandemic reopening of the country in April.

But the Health Ministry has been worried by waning turnout for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

To counteract this, it has been limiting access to some leisure sites that have reopened to people who present a "Green Pass" on an app showing they have been fully vaccinated.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by David Clarke)