The Israeli health system’s rapid responses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Publication date: Mar 04, 2024

The COVID-19 pandemic posed numerous challenges to health systems around the world. In addressing many of those challenges, Israel responded quite rapidly. While quick action is not an end in it itself, it can be important in responding to disease outbreaks. Some of Israel’s rapid responses to the pandemic contributed significantly to population health and provided important learning opportunities for other countries. Some of the most prominent Israeli rapid responses were related to vaccination. Israel led the world in the pace of its initial vaccine rollout, and it was also the first country to approve and administer booster vaccines to broad segments of the population. In addition, Israeli scholars published a series of timely reports analyzing vaccination impact, which informed policy in Israel and other countries. Israel was a rapid responder in additional areas of public health. These include the partial closure of its borders, the adoption of physical distancing measures, the use of digital surveillance technology for contact tracing, the use of wastewater surveillance to monitor viral spread, and the use of vaccine certificates (“green passes”) to facilitate a return to routine in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Many factors contributed to Israel’s capacity to repeatedly respond rapidly to a broad array of COVID-19 challenges. These include a national health insurance system that promotes public-private coordination, a system of universal electronic health records, a high level of emergency preparedness, a culture of focusing on goal attainment, a culture of innovation, and the presence of a strong scientific community which is highly connected internationally. In addition, some of the rapid responses (e. g., the rapid initial vaccination rollout) facilitated rapid responses in related areas (e. g., the analysis of vaccination impact, the administration of boosters, and the adoption of green passes). While rapid response can contribute to population health and economic resilience, it can also entail costs, risks, and limitations. These include making decisions and acting before all the relevant information is available; deciding without sufficient consideration of the full range of possible effects, costs, and benefits; not providing enough opportunities for the involvement of relevant groups in the decision-making process; and depleting non-renewable resources. Based on our findings, we encourage leaders in the Israeli government to ensure that its emergency response system will continue to have the capacity to respond rapidly to large-scale challenges, whether of a military or civilian nature. At the same time, the emergency response systems should develop mechanisms to include more stakeholders in the fast-paced decision-making process and should improve communication with the public. In addition, they should put into place mechanisms for timely reconsideration, adjustment, and-when warranted-reversal of decisions which, while reasonable when reached, turn out to have been ill-advised in the light of subsequent developments and evidence. These mechanisms could potentially involve any or all branches of government, as well as the public, the press, and professional organizations. Our findings also have implications for health system leaders in other countries. The Israeli experience can help them identify key capacities to develop during non-emergency periods, thus positioning themselves to respond more rapidly in an emergency. Finally, health system leaders in other countries could monitor Israel’s rapid responses to future global health emergencies and adopt selected actions in their own countries.

Concepts Keywords
Innovation COVID-19
Israeli Israel
Pandemic Pandemic
Professional Rapid response


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease VO population
disease VO vaccination
disease VO vaccine
disease IDO country
disease IDO contact tracing
disease MESH emergency
disease IDO process
disease VO time

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