CHW Weekly Stories

Canadian Hadassah-WIZO (CHW)

Behind the Scenes of Israel’s COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

The media is full of praise for Israel’s ambitious COVID-19 vaccination rollout that has already reached more than 2 million people in just the first two weeks. And while the success of a campaign depends on countless professionals and dedicated frontline staff, Israelis were delighted to hear of one woman who played a pivotal role behind the scenes- Benita Elkon Baitner.  Ms. Elkon Bainter never made the front page or back pages of any newspaper or press coverage of the vaccination campaign.  But her husband’s Facebook post, first published back in November 2020, has once again gone viral this week- and for good reason.  

Below is a translation from the original Hebrew post:

‘In Amit’s room.  On the second floor, in a small corner of our home in Kfar Oranim.

Negotiations were held over the last little while between Pfizer International and the State of Israel.

She achieved this incredible feat, modestly, with discretion, professionalism and such generosity as she connected, mediated and advanced both sides- Benita Elkon Baitner, (full disclosure, she’s my wife), Head of the Vaccine Unit at Pfizer International in Israel- doing so with dual loyalties. For on the one hand, Benita is a representative of Pfizer Israel, but on the other hand, she’s a citizen of Israel who wants the vaccine to get to here as quickly as possible. 

She achieved all of this during lockdowns, two quarantines, and a daughter who tested positive for Coronavirus in the room next door! 

So now that the agreement is signed and the vaccine is soon expected on its way, it’s important to state that not everything was done quickly over the last two days by this person or that one.  We should remember to share a little more about the history that has been made over the last while.  And, also share how proud I am of my wife, who I dearly love.

Let’s also not to forget, that as opposed to others, her work is not over, it has only just begun.

Yesher koach!’

(Source: Yaad Baitner)

Hadassah Medical Centre reported success in the first phase of the Israeli COVID-19 Vaccine trial

Hadassah Medical Centre reported success in the first phase of the Israeli COVID-19 Vaccine trial! The first clinical phase of testing the Israeli Biological Institute’s corona vaccine was completed at Hadassah Ein Kerem when the final dose was given to the 40th trial participant.

Those vaccinated at Hadassah’s Center for Clinical Research were aged 18-55 and without pre-existing illnesses. They will be closely monitored by the Center’s staff, including medical examinations, phone updates and sharing their health status in a dedicated phone app.

Center Head Hannah Drory shared: “Communication with the participants is excellent in the first phase of the experiment. We receive regular updates from them and the cooperation is wonderful.”

Center Director Prof. Yossi Karasko commented: “We’re pleased to announce that the first phase of corona vaccine clinical research has been a success. From monitoring the participants who have been vaccinated so far, we see no unusual side effects, and this seems promising in terms of safety, which is the point of the first stage of the experiment. We can now look forward to the next stage.

Hava Cohen Ayoubi, 30, from Negohot in the southern Hebron hills, one of the participants, shared: “Ahead of my last birthday I realized all I wanted was to do some good in this world. Testing showed I was a suitable candidate for the trial. The fears dissipated as soon as I entered the center. The staff was extremely professional and careful. It’s already a few days since the vaccination and I feel really great.”

The Nature of Things

Noah Cohen-Tzemach, an industrial design student at Hadassah Academic College (HAC), saw the plastic playground sets and artificial grass that sprung up across kindergartens in Israel as both an eye sore and a missed opportunity for the children they were meant to serve.

“Preschoolers learn primarily though sensory experiences, so well-designed natural gardens provide better opportunities for social, emotional and cognitive development.”

Cohen-Tzemach dedicated her final year in The DAN Department of Creative Human Design to research and develop alternative designs and products for school, inspired by the natural yards and gardens once enjoyed by children. Her final project, ‘The Nature of Things,’ is a design manual created specifically for educators working with young children during the most influential stage of their life. Included are clear instructions on how to enhance the overall outdoor experience through introducing a variety of stimuli that cater to the senses, encourage curiosity, creativity and meaningful connections. For instance, Cohen-Temach revamped traditional sandboxes with sleek and modular designs that help children acquire and learn crucial skills- like fine-motor development through playing and planting in the soil and dirt. The manual also maps out an array of possible group activities, such as gardening, which encourages better cooperation with friends, increases levels of patience, responsibility and self-confidence.  

Cohen-Tzemach’s manual has never been timelier, as Israel cautiously reopens schools and kindergartens in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. ‘The Nature of Things’ offers practical advice on how to create a dynamic educational environment and a much needed safe alternative to learning indoors. Best of all, during times of such uncertainty, fresh air and nature can help soothe and reduce stress among children and teachers alike!

The Local Athlete Project

Yarin Arbiv always considered himself the ‘sporty’ type.  So, when it came to choosing his final design project for the The DAN Department of Creative Human Design at Hadassah Academic College (HAC), Arbiv looked to solve a problem that many fitness enthusiasts face.

“Fitness is something that is very important to me. But I often prefer exercising outdoors rather than in gyms. The problem is that if you’re looking for a particular workout facility, it’s not always available or accessible.” 

Little did he know, the problem he was tackling would become a central issue throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. As new lockdown measures and strict safety regulations took effect, most gyms and fitness classes were forced to shut down. Yet, the need for exercise and physical activity only grew as a parallel, mental health crisis began to unfold.

“I believe fitness, and sports in general, is something that strengthens us- both physically and mentally.” 

In the midst of Israel’s lockdown, Arbiv explored ways for making exercise and training more accessible, while still factoring in the new financial reality. The spike in unemployment and the massive layoffs meant that even fewer people would be able to afford gym memberships and fitness classes. 

Arbiv created innovative design solutions that combined familiar street facilities, like benches and bus stops, with fitness facilities that are easily accessible to everyone.

“I had an idea to make adjustments to facilities that already existed on every corner of the street. I gave them a modern, sporty look that would entice people to come and train.”

The result is The Local Athlete Project, a series of street furniture, including benches, poles and sidewalk barriers that have been functionally designed and modified to serve as a small fitness facility. The sleek designs allow people to easily move their workouts outdoors while still improving their cardio activity, building muscular strength and overall endurance. Best of all, the workouts can be done safely within social distancing guidelines, and all for free!   

Professor Sigal Sviri, Head of Hadassah Hospital’s COVID-19 Outbreak ICU Makes the Cover of Forbes Magazine’s Best Doctors in Israel 2020!

Each year, Forbes Israel carefully compiles its Best Doctors in Israel shortlist, usually selected based on exceptional medical achievements. But this year, it was clear that the honour belonged to doctors at the forefront of the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Forbes Magazine Cover Photo

Three courageous medical leaders have made this year’s cover, amongst them, Professor Sigal Sviri, Head of Hadassah Hospital’s COVID-19 Outbreak Intensive Care Unit. Together with her counterparts, Professor Galia Rahav, Head of the Corona Department at Sheba Medical Centre and Professor Idit Matot, Head of the Coronavirus Unit at Ichilov Medical Centre, it’s safe to say that Israelis are in good hands.  

Professor Sigal Sviri, Head of Hadassah Hospital’s COVID-19 Outbreak Intensive Care Unit

As the longstanding Director of Hadassah Ein Kerem’s Medical Intensive Care Unit, Professor Sviri is used to treating patients with the most complex medical problems.  But, since the pandemic emerged, Professor Sviri relays:

“We haven’t had a break for even one day. Our work is around the clock- treating only the most critically ill patients. We don’t see an end in sight. This period has been extremely fascinating, but also challenging. We are completely focused on trying to save as many patients as possible- day and night.  We have tremendous drive and ambition to fight for every patient and for every respirator.” 

Photo Credit: Yossi Aloni

Although Israel managed to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections at the onset of the pandemic, a second wave has emerged since lockdown and social distancing measures were eased in mid-May.  COVID-19 wards in hospitals are once again filling up with infected patients and pushing capacity. Professor Sviri shares:

“There is a dire shortage of intensive care beds. Infrastructure and staff are the most important right now. It’s great that advanced medical technologies and innovative treatment methods are being developed, but without it going hand in hand with a system that will support patients when they need urgent and immediate treatment – it’s not worth anything. The low mortality rates are largely due to our highly skilled and professional staff but we have a severe shortage of them at the moment.”

Professor Sviri is also looking ahead and gearing up for the winter and flu season, when a third wave of infections may cause even greater stress on the healthcare system. She is taking every precaution and preparing her teams. 

 “The pandemic changed the way we perceive life and instilled in us a new sense of modesty- as this tiny little virus caught all of humanity, completely off guard.”

Photo Credit: Bruno Lavi